Two-Wheeler: Remember Your First Ride?

This morning, with proud strides, Micah walked into the kitchen and announced that he had taught himself to ride his bicycle.

“Wanna see?” he asked, his cheek-dimple showing from his wide grin.

He didn’t have to ask me twice.

Update: The night after this was filmed, Micah set his bike next to the garage, instead of putting the bike inside of the garage. It was stolen. He’s heartbroken. With a new understanding of the importance of caring for bikes, and his promise to do so, we’re looking for a “new” bike for him. If you live nearby and see a decent one for for $20 or less, will you let me know?

Evel Knievel Had a Mother, Too

Evel Knieval had a mother, too. There are days I wonder how she coped when her son was doing daring things that surely had her scrambling to help him or clean up after him at some point in his youth.

Today, my Evel Knieval decided to put a large wad of paper on top of a lit candle and walk away from it. The candle was on the sill of a window, and the flames were as high as the bottom of the open wooden window. Another child saw it and screamed for help.

Last week, Evel decided to walk home after being dropped off at a babysitter’s and break into our locked house to get his new rocks from the Natural History Museum to show to his friends. Tom called my cell phone to say he’d received a call at work saying that the motion sensors in our house had been set off and that the police were on their way. I was almost to my destination, but turned around. I came home to find my child sitting on our front porch, crying, and a police officer walking up our steps and asking him if he was okay.

My child is brilliant when it comes to taking things apart, even if the deconstruction only occurs in his mind. When we were on the Shinkansen on the way to Hokkaido, he located the emergency door-control panels, fire extinguisher, English guide to the route, and bathrooms — all within the first ten minutes of boarding.

He also quickly wanders off on his little quests of discovery. My first good scare occurred when he first start crawling. We were at a wedding and he swiftly crawled away from the kids’ play area. My son had found a hidden door and crawled up the stairs leading to the balcony where the sound and lighting systems were housed. The reception dances screeched to a halt as a woman started yelling that there was a baby about to fall through the bars of the balcony. A whole story above us, my son was teetering between bars wider than his chubby little body, laughing. It took several moments for us to find the door to even get to him to rescue him. Another time, when he was all of four, he got lost in Tokyo and walked over a mile to find us on the other side of a very large park. I’m thankful that he seems to have an innate compass, and that while he wanders away, lost in thought, he at least can find his way home… although we did have a pretty close call with him when he disappeared and ran off to see where the train tracks went. His guardian angels certainly have to work for their paychecks!

But, he also has a very tender heart… if you can get to it. When he finally humbles himself and fesses up, he becomes a big puddle of tears and blames himself harshly.

Today I had to explain to him that he has a pattern of doing things without thinking them through. The answer cannot simply be, “I don’t know why I did that!” In the case of the candle fire, and in breaking into our house, and a few other named problems he’d caused (for instance, a hole in the plaster wall hours before our house was to be shown by a Realtor) that these things warrant being confronted. I’m not trying to personally attack him — it would be wrong for me to turn a blind eye to them. It’s for his own growth that I must talk to him about these things!

In response to his sobbing and his saying things like, “You think I’m stupid! You don’t love me! You hate everything that I do!”, I told him that I appreciated his mind, and that I am proud of him for wanting to understanding how things work. His skills are such a help to me for mechanically related projects — like taking apart our vacuum to thoroughly clean it out. I pointed out that, out of all of my children, he is the one for whom I have bought nice tools (not just plastic hammers, but the real thing — and nails to go with it!) and building toys designed for children way older than his age group. My goal is to encourage him in his endeavors… but with some boundaries.

I told him, “It’s not enough to simply ask, “I wonder what would happen if….?” He must also stop and ask these two things:

1. Could my actions endanger myself or someone else? (Yes = Need to ask permission!)
2. Do I have permission from the owner to tinker with this object? (No = Need to ask permission!)

And… if he is not sure of those two answers to please ask his parents.

For those who are tinkerers or have children who are — any advice or encouragement for me? :D

Befriending Bullies

“Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” — Josh McDowell

It is so much easier to lecture “Do not! What is wrong with you?” and label “You’re a bully!” “He has ADHD.” than it is to engage “What are you thinking about?” and encourage. “You are so brave! You would be great at building skyscrapers!”

Children who are fearless, strong, and driven, who can organize others and see the world as their playground — imagine how awesome their potential if given the tools (and challenges) to be good leaders.

One of my favorite stories to read to children is The Fire Cat.

Pickles is an awkward, homeless, yellow cat with black spots and very large paws. The other cats are afraid of him because he chases them up a very tall tree — because he can. They avoid Pickles and say, “You are a bad cat. You cannot be our friend.”

Mrs. Goodkind, a neighbor, takes Pickles into her fancy formal home and by gives him cat toys. She tries to reprogram him to be an common cat.

He quickly becomes bored and chooses to goes back to his outdoor barrel and his old ways.

One rainy, windy day, Pickles finds himself stuck in the very same tree he would use to terrorize the other cats.

Mrs. Goodkind could have given him what he deserved and left him for dead in the tree, but she compassionately called the fire department to rescue Pickles.

When he is safely back on the ground, Mrs. Goodkind doesn’t embarrass him or scold Pickles in front of Fireman Joe. Instead, she points out his big paws and praises potential. She re-frames his behavior. “Pickles is a cat who wishes to do big things,” she says. “Someday, he will do them. Look at his paws.”

Fireman Joe gets permission from the Chief to allow Pickles to live at the firehouse.

With much determination, Pickles learns how to be a firecat. He makes friends with all of the firemen, but still has trouble relating to the neighborhood cats. He chases them away when they get too close to the firehouse.

The Chief never responded by squashing Pickles’ spirit or kicking him out of the firehouse. He just quietly observed.

When the time was right, after the Chief has established a relationship, he pulled Pickles aside and said, “A Firecat must be kind to everyone. You must be good to other cats.” As a mentor, as someone who believed in him, as someone whom Pickles looked up to, the Chief — portrayed as a rather scary guy himself — let Pickles know it was okay to be both strong and kind. It didn’t have to be a choice between one or the other.

Sometimes people with big paws need to be told this, too.

A few months ago, a “bully” was chasing kids through my yard and plowed through my fence, knocking the gate off its hinges. He fled the scene. The loud crash of wood hitting concrete alerted me to the problem. I tracked down the boy’s mother and asked if he could come back to help me fix the gate.

Reluctantly, he came over. He helped me lift the gate and carefully guide the pegs back into the hinges. After it was fixed, he said he was sorry.

I thanked him for his help and said, “You’re strong guy. Would you like to help me clean up my yard?”

He grinned and recruited his little posse. Ten trash bags full of twigs and prickly holly leaves later, I bought them all ice cream and we sat and talked for a while.

When he talks to me now, it isn’t about baseball or riding his bike (although he is very good at those things), but it is about trying to navigate through his world without a dad. It’s about worrying his mom is having a hard time at work, and that he is disappointing her with his low grade in math. It’s about the desire to amount to something.

Little by little, he is changing. He is smiling more. He is including the younger children instead of chasing them through my yard.

I’ve often thought about how easy it would have been on that day to yell at him, call the police, or tell my children to stay away from him.

I certainly would have missed out on the the privilege of being his friend.

Re-Framing Negative Behavior:
aggressive / assertive
anxious / cautious; concerned
boisterous / enthusiastic
bossy / a leader
brooding / serious
chatterbox / communicative
clingy / loving
controlling / determined
disruptive / eager
distractible / perceptive
dreamy / imaginative
explosive / dramatic
fearful / sensitive
forceful / determined
giddy / good-humored
high strung / energetic; enthusiastic
hyper / loves to move
hyper-sensitive / responsive
impatient / compelling; passionate
impudent / unafraid
incorrigible / strong-willed
inflexible / traditional
intense / focused; dedicated
insecure / cautious
loud / expressive
manipulative / charismatic
moody / sensitive
non-participatory / an observer
obsessive / deliberate
picky / selective
possessive / keenly intent on objects
pushy / assertive
quiet / absorbent; a thinker
restless / zealous
self-centered / proud
serious / contemplative
shy / reflective
silly / fanciful; joyful
spoiled / well-loved
stubborn / tenacious; persistent
a terror / energetic
troublesome / challenging
unfocused / curious
unpredictable / flexible; creative
whiny / willing to communicate
wild / vigorous
withdrawn / introspective

Are Dragons Real?

“Were there any dragons discovered yesterday?” my children ask daily.

“Not that I know of…” I say, sometimes searching the news to be sure.

They used to ask me if dragons were real.

I would say, “If they are, they have not yet been discovered.”

Which mythological creatures do you wish were real?

Photo by my brother Elijah, of our costumed sister Grace.

Spring Cleaning? 5 Tips for Managing Toys

With five children, we have plenty of toys in our house. I know first-hand how overwhelming the toy mess can be!

In my post at RealZest, I share five of my best tried-and-true toy tips we’ve been using for years that will help keep your home clean and keep kids from flitting endlessly from one toy to the next!

Speaking of messes, I also offer an accountability challenge for parents.

Here’s an excerpt:

Toys are not fun when they’re all over the house. If you’re stepping on green army men, threatening to sell wayward dolls on eBay and are using items like daddy’s lighter as a body doubles for game pieces, the toys have taken over.

Your children’s toys aren’t evil, they’re just a little misguided.

Here are five ways to manage toys in your home so that they feed your children’s imaginations and not your trash cans.

What are your best toy-management tips? Be sure to leave them in the comments over at RealZest. I look forward to interacting with you there!