Trust the Gene Genie

Saturday, November 13, 2010

All hail Saturday morning

Somewhere between the time I was kid and when I grew up, Saturday mornings changed. I'm not sure when it happened, but, as you can guess, I started noticing when I had kids.

The way it used to be: You'd wake up at 5, grab a big blanket or quilt, a bowl of cereal and turn on the tube. You usually had four choices, NBC, CBS, ABC or the local syndication station. But at 5 in the morning it didn't really matter. All that was on were really old reruns of stuff like "Rocky and Bullwinkle" and "Pink Panther," or the Farm Report, if you landed on the syndicated channel. To make sure you didn't get busted by parents who I'm sure had only gone to bed a few short hours before, you had to keep the television down to levels so low sometimes you weren't sure if you were actually hearing the sound or just imagining it.

Usually by 6 or so, the real cartoon block started. In between the shows there were little message spots like "School House Rocks" and the one with that guy that looked like a walking yellow blob with a top hat and cane that strolled around your stomach telling you to eat healthy snacks. It was awesome. You sat back and watched everything from "SilverHawks" to "Superfriends." (Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Justice....) And then there was "Dungeons and Dragons." That show was in a class all by itself. So, so good.

The way it is now: You're kids get up and you rush them off to Leigh's soccer game. It's just not the same.

Well, that's not entirely true. Soccer's over now. So the girls get up, usually sometime after 7. Which is great for Becky and I. As a kid, waking up at 5, I'm guessing I melted into some sobbing emotional mess at the first request from my parents to do anything productive on Saturday morning.

And even though the girls get up around 7, there's still no cartoons on the Big Three until 8. They run morning news shows on Saturday mornings. It's almost heresy. Except all the kids are at soccer games, so they don't notice. Well, they're either at soccer games or tuning into Nick, Disney or Cartoon Network, which is, obviously, the real reason the Saturday morning cartoon culture is dead. There's no reason to get up at 5 on a Saturday to watch cartoons when you can tune into them whenever you want any day of the week on basic cable.

It will blacken your soul and destroy your mind

Lucky for my girls, we don't have cable (that's another post for another day). So they get up on Saturday morning, grab a box of cereal and watch stuff like "Sabrina" and "The Replacements." There's some new terrible "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" cartoon that runs now. They'll watch that from time to time. PBS has a channel that runs kids programming all the time, so sometimes they catch the occasional "Curious George" or "SuperWhy." You know, to keep Elsa placated.

But it's interesting. Even with the girls and their basic cable-less living conditions, there's no real reverence for the Saturday morning ritual we had as kids. And they seem relatively indifferent about the cartoons they watch. There's no one single show they spend the entire week waiting to watch. When I was really young, "Superfriends" only came on Saturday morning and it was one of the first cartoons on, so you had to make sure you were up good and early to catch it. I started counting down the hours until it aired on Wednesday. I couldn't wait for it to come on. My girls don't look forward to anything with that same kind of anticipation.

Which is probably for the best. They read at their age more than I ever did. And they're more active. Still. I can't help but think some of the whimsy, some of the innocence of my childhood will be something they never experience. On the other hand, when they reach 15 or 16 they'll never have to experience that gaping disappoint of realizing the Wonder Twins were the stupidest cartoon superhero duo ever to grace television screens. Form of an ice unicycle? Are you kidding me?

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's quickly becoming the Elsa Hour on the Report. That's not really how it's supposed to be but she keeps doing insane things and so I keep writing about it.

Case in point: my post last week. You remember, it was all about her nasty thumb-sucking habit and how it was going to be terrible to kick her of it and how Becky had to stand at her door until she eventual cried herself to sleep that night. The drama.

Yeah. That was the only night she cried about it. She didn't suck her thumb that night and she hasn't since. Let that sink in for a minute. No fits, no tantrums, no weepy pleas for her blanket back. It's like someone literally flipped a switch, a big, cease-to-thumb-suck-and-cry-about-blankie switch.


It's insane because we had tried a month earlier and it went about as well as you'd imagine. Tears, tantrums and heart-breakingly sincere pleas asking us why. We were sure the psychological damage we'd inflicted would take years to undo.

Instead, a little over a week ago, we were gathering for family prayer, Elsa was throwing a tantrum at the dinner table and I threatened to throw her blanket away if she didn't stop. Just another evening in the Rogers home.

Well, she screamed right at me just once more to make her point. I believe that's when Becky saw her opening. She took Elsa's blanket and mimed throwing it away. It almost felt like Becky had acted on a whim. But I'm guessing she had been scheming and planning that move for weeks -- not sure how it would present itself or how she would actually go about removing blankie from the family environment. But I'm sure she'd steeled herself for The Moment, ready to pounce when she realized The Moment had presented itself.

The rest you know. Elsa went to bed crying. Becky stood at the door to keep an ear on her. The next morning her thumb was remarkably un-prune-like. A couple nights during the week, unsure if she'd take up the habit again subconsciously, we put in her gloves, which she loved. And sure enough, she wasn't sucking her thumb. At all.

I have no explanation for it. What changed between this month and last? Why would she nearly effortlessly give up the blanket and the thumb on some random night when she could have just as easily gone on in her old, self-soothing ways? It makes no sense.

Which leads to the real point of this post. Children make no sense. The sooner you accept that, the easier parenthood will be.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What is and what should never be

So I had the Led Zeppelin dialed up tonight. It's Saturday. And I think this goes back to my teenage years, but there's something -- I dunno how to describe it -- but something just right about playing Zeppelin on a Saturday night. It feels right, you know? Like that:

Yeah, that feels right. Anyway.

Becky's hanging outside Elsa's room right now waiting for her to fall asleep. We're usually not so nosy about it, but tonight we sent her to bed without her blanket. She's four. So having the blanket's cool. It's what you do at that age. You know, like 13-year-old girls clipping up their copies of TigerBeat. But with Elsa, the blanket, in and of itself, isn't the problem. It's what she does while she's got her blanket.

Oh sure she's cute as a button, but do you see those teeth? I'm pretty sure you could fly an X-Wing through that gap. The dental catastrophe that is that mouth is the result of four years of thumb sucking. A thumb that only gets sucked when she's holding her blanket. For her sake, for her teeth's sake, for our pocketbook's sake we've got to get her off that sweet, sweet thumb. Before she starts high school.

And this is new territory for us. Claire sucked a binky and we weened her from it pretty painlessly at 2. Leigh sucked her thumb up until she was one. That winter she caught a really bad cold and so couldn't suck her thumb and breath at the same time. That's right. She wisely chose breathing over thumb sucking. Elsa has yet to display that same acumen. Getting that girl to give up her thumb is going to be some kind of epic war.

Listening upstairs, the crying has stopped. Becky is not the enabler in our house, so the silence means only one thing. Elsa fell alseep without her blanket. So I guess that's a little victory for the evening. A battle won in the great War of the Thumb.

So I deal with this stuff as a parent and the words of Zeppelin's "Good Times Bad Times" come to my mind. You know: In the days of my youth, I was told what it means to be a man. Now I've reached that age I've tried to do all those things the best I can. No matter how I try, I find my way into the same old jam.

Not unlike the narrator in the song, I -- more often than not -- have no idea what I'm doing as a parent -- well, as an adult, if we're being honest. So it's a good thing Becky's up there making sure this kid kicks the thumb habit. As the enabler in this relationship, I'd let Elsa suck that thing through college.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Back from the dead

What's a year and half? Nothing. A blink of an eye, really. But I'm back at it and it feels good. See, there's this girl. And she's having a birthday and the one thing she wanted more than anything else was a reminder of how awesome her family is. So this is for her.

(And this is how awesome her family is:)

A quick update. During the last 18 months we all aged a bit, the girls cleaned up at a handful of swimming meets, we moved to Billings, MT and I took a new job and the girls changed schools three times. We also discovered that the older your family gets the harder it is to move.

But it's also adventurous. And rewarding -- in its own way. A few weeks after landing in Billings, I was dropping the girls off at school and as they got out of the car and walked up to the main door, they held hands. Definitely a first for them. It made me think maybe the change would maybe do some good.

It's been interesting watching them adjust to the move. 'Cause mostly it's been them adjusting to new schools and new friends. We got here in November, got the girls in school and then moved them to a new one in August for the new school year. They had to start from scratch. Twice. Well, almost from scratch. They each had a friend at their new school and that helped a bit.

But moving to a new school is hard. For the first day, Becky and I walked the girls and dropped them off with all kinds of hugs and kisses. The playground was filled with kids waiting to line up to go into the school and as we turned back, sneaking one last glance Claire, who could strike up a conversation with a tree, was immediately talking and laughing with some soon-to-be classmates. Leigh, on the other hand, was kind of wandering around all by herself. That's hard to watch as a parent. And then talking to her about after school, she wasn't even aware she was making such a depressing sight. That girl's pretty much content anywhere and under almost any circumstance.

Of course our biggest worry is that the girls will be picked on. The new kids are always picked on. Case in point: I went to the same elementary school from kindergarten to sixth grade. Pretty much same group of friends from start to finish. In fifth grade, we had a new kid move into our class -- his dad was in the Air Force and like most military brats, I don't think this poor kid ever finished a single grade of elementary at the same school. Which makes me feel even more guilty for the way I treated him.

But you gotta understand. Sure, his dad was in the Air Force, but my older brother was in the Civil Air Patrol, kind of a junior ROTC for high-schoolers who wanted to go into the Air Force. My brother even had a uniform. Obviously, I was the resident expert on allthings Air Force. We didn't need this new kid around with all his stories about the service and how cool his dad was 'cause he worked on fighter jets. And so, I picked on him. Mercilessly. It culminated with a fist fight after school one day. Because I was jerk. I'm pretty sure he kicked my trash. For some reason that doesn't make me feel any better.

So I knew what could happen to my girls. They could easily have a classmate who's older sibling wrote for the high school paper. And that classmate could easily consider themselves the school expert on newspapering. And then my girls would come in with a dad who was reporter for the town paper and that poor threatened classmate would tease my kids all day long about how their tales of what their dad did at work were completely wrong and could never happen and that they were nothing but liars, dirty dirty liars, 'cause everyone knows C-130s can't go supersonic! Naturally I hoped they'd have less petty classmates.

And guess what? They do. Both the girls have made some really good friends. Claire admitted she used to get teased a bit about her age. She's really young for her class -- the cut off dates in California fall in such a way that she would have ended up in a lower grade had she started school here instead of in Redding. And so at lunch, some of her classmates used to tell her she wasn't as cool as everyone else in her class 'cause she was born in 2000 not in 1999. Claire, of course, is a survivor. She knew if she was going to stop the teasing she'd have to not only intimidate her classmates but also show them she could stand toe-to-toe with the best of them.

So, one day at lunch, as the teasing started up again, she quietly finished her milk, picked up the small, half-pint milk carton, made eye contact with her tormentors and crushed the carton in her fist. That was the end of that. As she describes it, the show of strength left everyone in the cafeteria slack-jawed and bug-eyed. She showed them.

Leigh, I'll admit, I was never that worried for. Becky was a bit, naturally, because Leigh is so unassuming. She's meek and gentle in her own way. A natural target for bullies, right? Except that Leigh's hilarious and has a spine a tempered steel. Nothing really shakes that girl up. So, instead of being the shy kid in class, she's more like the oil on the water. She just calms everything down. And she quickly wins the hearts of those who know her.

She was star of the class last week -- a little thing the teacher does to highlight each student in class. On Friday, as the culmination to the week, the Star gets to do this kind of extended show-and-tell, showing off to the class all her likes and interests. Well Leigh gets up and shows off pictures of her family and some of her art projects, finishing by showing the kids how to do one of designs she created in art class. It was amazing to watch. Leigh simply commanded the classroom. She had the kids laughing, asking questions and intently watching as she did her demonstration. She was completely at ease and we realized she was going to be just fine.

So, it's back to the lab again.

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