As the school year wraps up, part of me hopes that my son’s teachers will have a nice, relaxing summer. The more realistic part of me realizes that they will instead spend most of that summer in their classrooms preparing for the next school year. Teachers are a crazy, passionate bunch.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve attended a dance recital where my daughter kinda-sorta showed dancing skills, and baseball games where my son kinda-sorta showed baseball skills. My wife and I gave both kids effusive praise for their efforts. This leads me to wonder: Can you give kids too much praise?
On reflection, I think that’s a stupid question. But it keeps popping up in my head. Ideally, I want my kids to feel confident but not cocky. They should feel like they’re capable of performing at a high level, but also that there’s more to learn.
It’s one of those stupid mental chess games you wind up playing against yourself. There are a lot of moments where I feel like I overthink things as a parent, and this is one of them. It’s silly to give or withhold praise as though it’s a strategic reserve.
My daughter had her dance recital over the weekend. I’m sure most parents were happy with the event, which featured lots of cuteness and little stage fright. When you’re dealing with 3- and 4-year-olds, you’re in it for the cuteness, not the precision.
Of course, not everybody is ready to go up on stage and dance in front of a crowd of strangers. While most of the girls did their dance, one child got a particularly bad case of stage fright. She didn’t just freeze up — she cried through the entire routine.
My wife introduced our kids to the Mario Party video games. Our kids, in turn, have informed me that for the next few days I should refer to them as Mario and Princess Peach. Thankfully, they didn’t go so far as to ask me to amend their birth certificates.
These games of make-believe sometimes leave me wondering if we’ve allowed too much screen time in our house. But then I ask myself what I and my brothers were doing when we were about that old. We pretended we were robots because we watched Small Wonder every morning.
More significantly, there was a time not long ago where I was worried my son didn’t have much of an imagination. Playing games of pretend seemed to be foreign to him. Now that’s no longer a problem, so unless he starts struggling in school or socially, I’m happy to see him flex his creative muscles.
The fact that our kids have easier access to video games than any previous generation does lead me to wonder which form of screen time is better. Are video games building our kids’ imagination and problem-solving skills, or are they even worse than TV? The research is mixed but seems to favor video games.
My daughter is willful, and that will serve her well later in life. But right now that willfulness means that she refuses to sleep in her own bed at night, and that’s robbing my wife and I of precious shuteye. As such, the bedtime wars have begun.
Actually, they haven’t really begun so much as they’ve continued for a couple years now. We set rules about when she was allowed to climb into bed with us, and she’s ignored those rules. Exhaustion wins out in the end, and it’s hard to pick a fight with a preschooler at three in the morning.
The deal my wife and I have with our kids is simple: they have to pick some sort of extracurricular activity, be it sports, dance, or what have you. If they don’t like it, they can try something else. The deal with myself is also simple: I don’t want to be a stereotypical sports parent.
By “stereotypical sports parent,” I mean the most negative stereotype out there – they kind of person who screams at coaches and generally acts like a boor instead of enjoying the game. I’m not that competitive a person, so in theory that’s an easy promise to keep. Despite that, I almost lost it yesterday.
On the bright side, it didn’t have anything to do with me being overly competitive. Instead, it had to do with one kid being a bully on the ice. This guy has been a problem for months, as he seems to think that sports exist only to pummel kids smaller than him.
Parenting is hazardous work. With extra human beings to account for, your brain gets less focused on your immediate safety. Combine that with a lack of sleep and the fact that a houseful of kids is extremely chaotic, and it’s a wonder that most parents don’t win up in intensive care on a regular basis.
A recent thread on our community page saw a bunch of parents swallow their pride and put their stupidest injuries out there for all to see. Some of my personal favorites include:
“A friend opened her kitchen cupboard and a tupperware type bowl fell out and hit her in the head in just the right spot to knock her out cold. She woke up several minutes later on her kitchen floor.” (39tessmom)
“Pouring very very hot tea into a glass pitcher. I thought it was heat tempered. It was not. Exploded and got cuts and burns all over my hands and feet. Oh and I was 36 weeks pregnant at the time.” (clar155a)
“I busted my lip the day before my baby shower. I was trying to eat an apple. I brought it up to my mouth too fast and smashed my lip against my teeth because I didn’t open my mouth quick enough.” (ProfessorPlumII)
“When I was pregnant I misjudged just HOW FAR my belly stuck out while shaving my armpits, and while passing the razor to the opposite hand, I sliced my belly.” (PictureSarah)