Love and Nudges (Building up courage, Fostering independence)

Reading the Harry Potter series together is a thread that weaves through the days of our lives. Having just finished Book 3, it was time for our great reward – getting the movie.

There is only one video rental store left in our town. They had it, of course, but it took a week of waiting before it was returned. She was beside herself with excitement when they told us we could come pick it up.

But that excitement soon abated.

Me – “Ok, you go and get it.”

I handed her money.

Her – “No, Daddy.”

She recoiled into an anxious posture.

Me – “Come on. You can do it.”

Her – “No. Daddy, you do it.”

Me – “Look, you need to feel comfortable to go up to people and buy things. When I was your age, I was traveling on my own in Switzerland and buying candy at kiosks, and I didn’t even speak the language. I wanted that candy!”

Her – “Well, can you come with me?”

I got out of the car but then waited inside the store about ten feet away from the check out desk.

Her – “No, I’m not going to do it.”

Me – “Okay, we don’t have to get it today.”

She didn’t like that.

Me – “Look, he seems like a nice guy. Only one of two things can happen. You have enough money and he gives you change. You don’t have enough and you need to get more money from me.”

Five minutes later, she was bounding out of the store. As usual, she was proud of herself for pushing through her shyness and inhibitions.

Me – “You can’t overcome a fear by avoiding it. You have to see it as a challenge and keep gaining experience. Then, it will be no big deal for you.”

I could do everything for her, but that would not help her, long-term.

Lots of love and steady nudges.


Earning that Smile (Morning routines, Love)

There are some school days where I need to rush her out of bed because I goofed in letting her sleep too long. Those days are usually a quick kiss and then increasingly urgent prompts to get moving. But I try to make days like those rare.

Instead, I prefer mornings like this morning.

I see it’s time to get her up in order for her to have plenty of time to casually get ready for school. I crawl next to her, stroke her forehead.

My first goal of our day together is always to start hers with a smile

She usually will turn this way or that and cuddle up closer with her blanket or pull the sheets over her a bit more.

A few more kisses.

When she was really little, I’d always say, “Good morning. Welcome to another day of your big adventure (Life). Guess what Daddy’s going to do today? Going to love you. Going to have fun today. Going to learn new things.”

That usually brought a smile. Now, I tend to just keep it simpler.

Me – “Me – “Good morning. I love you. It’s time to get up, honey.”

Actually, today, I did work a little extra for that little smile.

A song from a friend of mine who passed away several years popped into my head, so I sang it to her for the first time…

“Smile and be happy,

you create your universe.

Smile and you’ll discover,

your world looks a lot like your thoughts.

You’re creating it all.

So why not create it… with a smile.”

The song did the trick this morning. A little smile appeared on her face.

Her – “One more minute.”

That’s my cue to give her a couple minutes of morning snuggles.

Then, she’s good to go.

I put on some inspirational song like Justin Timberlake’s ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling,’ head off to make sure her breakfast and lunch are all set for the day, and she starts her shower or just gets dressed. On good days, I don’t need to repeat myself five times for her to get her shoes on or to comb her hair.

Regardless, I take solace that her day started with a smile.

Forever Super (Security, Bonding, Affection, Self-esteem)

Driving home at night, she was starting to drift to sleep.

Me – “Are you a little bit snuggly tonight, medium snuggly, a lot snuggly or super snuggly?”

I knew what her answer would be. It was my way of saying that I love her and would send her off into her sleep the way I have thousands of times over life, feeling safe and loved with singing and snuggles.

Her – “Super snuggly! I’ll always be super.”

She was saying that she would always want snuggles, but I changed it to be about her.

Me – “Yes, you will always be super.”

She smiled. I smiled inside.


The Family Spirit (Maturity, Personal responsibility, Core values)

It’s funny how a simple, unexpected phrase from your child can be so delightful.

We had just arrived at Nonna and Papa’s house (my parents), and I was turning ground turkey into turkey burgers. That was going to be my part in pitching in. My Mom was preparing a salad. Suddenly, my girl chimed in…

Her – “Is there anything I can do to help?”

My Mom answered before I could.

Nonna – “You can help set the table. Oh, wait, it looks like Papa already took care of it.”

Her – “Oh. Is there anything else I can help with?”

There really wasn’t, but I was delighted that she had asked, unprompted.

Me – “I’m really proud of you for asking and for thinking of helping out. Little efforts go a long way. That means a lot to people.”

For the last couple years, I have been steadily bringing her more into the fold of making family life work. One way I’ve done that is asking her to not expect everything to be done by others when it comes to preparing for dinner or cleaning up after dinner.

If I had a dime for every time I’ve reminded her or lectured her about taking her own plate to the kitchen and, when she did that, not leaving it by the sink for others to tend to, I would be challenging Bill Gates. But I’ve kept at it, steadily.

A typical comment when I’m patient-

Me – “Hmmm… anything else you might want to do before you head off?”

A typical comment when I’m frustrated from repeating myself about it-

Me – “Excuse me! Where are you going? Who are you expecting to clean up your plate? This is a family, not a hotel. We all work together to make it work. You’re not asked to do a whole lot. You can certainly take care of your own plate, and I expect you to look for ways to help out. Come on. Get a few things from the table.”

Back to this evening…

For a moment, I did wonder if she had ulterior motives.

Me – “You’re not trying to sell me on something you want to get like watching TV by helping out, are you?”

Her – “No, Daddy. I’m not trying to sell you. Is there anything I can help with?”

Me – “Well, I really appreciate that you asked and thought about how you could help like everyone else is doing. I’m proud of you.”

Nonna did find a couple small things that she could do like take mayo and ketchup to the table. Then, she and I played hide-and-seek until dinner.

Sort of ironic, I guess. She showed signs of increased maturity, and then I prompted her to play hide-and-seek. But that seems like a good formula for a quality life.


Tend to tasks that help yourself and those around you.

Rinse and repeat.

Anyway, it takes a whole lot of modeling and repeating, but it’s always encouraging when you see values taking hold that will serve her well in life.

Daddy Improv (Problem-solving)


She appeared in front of me. Her voice was laced with satisfaction.

Her – “Daddy, do you like my outfit?”

Indeed, from head to toe, she had, as she is prone to do, quickly and cleverly assembled a creative yet tasteful ensemble of clothes.

Me – “It’s great. I like how your headband goes with your shirt. Only… what about a school shirt.”

Her – “I don’t have any. They’re all at mamma’s.”

Me – “Really? Why? Those need to be here. Anyway, you can always wear one from the sports event day.”

She let out a barely audible groan. It didn’t fit with her fashion intentions.

Her – “I want to wear the grey one.”

Me – “The one you wore yesterday? It’s in the car, but I’m sure it’s dirty.”

I had to go to the car anyway, so I fetched it, and, sure enough, it had stains. Hmmm…

For me, the sports shirt, clean, folded and ready for action was going to be too hot.

So, I dowsed the spots on the grey one with laundry detergent, rubbed them out and plopped the wet mass in the dryer with ten minutes until we departed.

It was not dry in time.

No problem. We’d do this the Daddy Improv way.

On the way to school, I hung it out the window. She thought it was amusing.

After about five minutes, it was ready to be worn.

Problem solved. Fashion intentions for the day still in check. Happy girl. Lighter clothing on a hot day. Satisfied Daddy.

A Crappy Song for a Laugh (Peaceful parenting, Unmet expectations, Playful moments)

She’d had a play date with one of her best friends from school. We then had dinner at Nonna and Papa’s. I had her brush her teeth there before we headed back home, and, predictably after playing hard all day, she fell asleep in the car. I carried her in.


She would fall asleep on schedule for a full night’s sleep to wake up happy and bright-eyed for the final day of school this week.

Uhh… not so fast.

She murmured a request for snuggles. Okay. Within moments, she started writing around and groaning.

Her – “It hurts.”

Me – “What?”

Her – “I can’t go to the bathroom.”

She was blocked up. Was it lack of water intake? Lack of green leafy veggies? I try to stay on top of both of those every day. Maybe it was those dry, wheat-based goldfish crackers she and her friend had scarfed down.

In any case, I prepared myself for the inevitable. My expectations of her being asleep and waking up on time would not be met. Frustration would do no good.

Me – “Try going to the bathroom again. Remember to prop your feet up on the rim.”

Her – “Okay.”

No luck.

Me – “Well, I’ll give you a little back massage, and maybe you’ll settle.”

Five minutes later, she was still wincing.

Me – “Try other positions, like curling up in a ball.”

Her – “Daddy, I tried that.”

She tried again, though. No luck.

Me – “Do you want to take a warm bath?”

That had worked in the past when this happened. It hadn’t cleared her system, but it had relaxed her enough to fall asleep until morning.
Twenty minutes later, the night droning on, she was back in her bed, still in pain.

I consciously managed my way of being, telling myself that, at this point, it didn’t matter. She’d fall asleep when she was ready, and she’d sleep in. Tardy points be damned. Well being comes first, always, for me.

Me – “How about the trampoline? That could get things moving.”

She got out of bed and started hopping up and down on her mini-trampoline. It was sort of funny, at this point. She laughed. I decided to turn it into a full-fledged memory. Grabbed my wooden flute and started dancing around while playing a crappy song, no pun intended, and coming up with a tune.

“Come out poo.
Come out poo.
Come into to the world.
Come be you.”


“Come out poo.
Come out poo.
Come out now.
Stop acting like glue.”

She let out a big laugh, which made me dance around even more in a more silly state.

Breathing hard, she laid down in bed.


Me – “Hmmm… would you like hot water with lemon?”

Her – “Yeah.”

By now she was very sleepy. It was almost 11pm.

A few minute later, she took a sip.

Her – “This is making me very sleepy.”

I chuckled.

Off she went to sleep.

We didn’t get to school on time. I alerted the teachers that we’d be an hour late. It was a nice, gentle awakening, and the coast was clear soon after she woke up, if you know what I mean.

To top it all off, we’ll always have that memory of the flute and the trampoline.

Her Persistent Question (Spirituality, Being present, Curiosity)

Tonight, we were in the car when out-of-the-blue she said something unusual…

Her – “Daddy, I have something to tell you.”

Me – “Okay…”

I shut off the car radio to be fully present as this sounded important.

Her – “You know how when you ask the meaning of a word it gives you another word?”

Me – “Uh…”

She tried to explain, but I didn’t understand. Our conversation went on to other things, but I returned as she had made a point about wanting to tell me about it.

Somehow, the word ‘absolute’ came up.

Her – “What does that mean?”

Me – “Done?”

Her – “What does that mean?”

Me – “Finished.”

Her – “What does that mean?”

This continued on and on. As it proceeded, I had to really think about it. Sometimes, I was quiet for a good while before coming up with the word.

My answers to her persistent question…

“There’s nothing more to do”
















Her – “What does that mean?”

I decided to leave it at that. We were home, walking in the door, and I wanted her to hop in the shower, get ready for bed and finish off our day with Harry Potter.

It was interesting, though, to see where her one question led.

Yay for Both (Health, Cultivating healthy eating, Personal responsibility)

We were having a late lunch at Panera’s. We both ordered a big salad and the broccoli cheddar soup. That’s generally what I want her to order, something green salad-based.

Anyway, I looked at her plate and noticed that she didn’t order a side of bread.

Me – “You don’t eat much bread, do you?”

Her – “No.”

Me – “Or cereal, or pasta or any sort of grain product?”

Her – “No.”

Me – “And you don’t eat much dairy.”

Indeed, her diet and her healthy eating mindset, with her share of sweets here and there, is sky high.

Me – “Yay.”

Her – “Yay for me or yay for both?”

Me – “Yay for both of us.”

One of the things I’m most proud about as a parent would be the healthy eating mindset and lifestyle that is second nature to her now. It’s just what she’s grown up with. Of course, if it was all just a matter of example, then she would be addicted to chocolate like me, too. So, credit to her for taking ownership of healthy choices.

Side note to this… she did order a cookie with her meal I realized. However, the generally very low grain consumption is the point. It’s in-grained.

Piano Life Lessons (Building character, Follow through, Being patient with growth)


Two weeks ago, I took her to a piano lesson with our friend Deirdre. My girl promised to practice but didn’t.

So, I asked her to call Deirdre up and ask her if she wanted her to practice for the next two weeks or come over for a piano lesson. Deirdre said to come over. I took the phone then and Deirdre and I discussed it further.

Deirdre – “She’ll just be starting at the same place, and maybe she’ll realize that isn’t what she wants.”

Me – “Okay. I just want her to honor your time, my time driving and waiting, and her promises. If, ultimately, she decides that piano is not her thing, that’s fine. But as long as she says she wants to do it, then she needs to follow through.”

The lesson went very well. Deirdre made an additional great point; that maybe she doesn’t know exactly what to practice. Deirdre gave her a practice routine and urged her to practice ten minutes a day as well as a sheet for her to log her practices.

While ten minutes a day won’t work for our schedule, I think my girl is starting to see that to advance in anything she has to back up her wants with work. My hope is that she’ll learn to pick some days of the week and follow through.

Even if she doesn’t stick with piano, she’s learning some valuable life lessons.

Music to My Ears (Fostering independence, Self-confidence)

Playdate. Were on the way back our home from picking up her friend. Her friend’s mom had asked if we could make cookies as the spontaneous had upended plans at their house to make that. Sure.

I pulled into the grocery store parking lot where we get raw cookie dough and handed them the money.

Me – “Bellina, get the gluten free cookie dough. You know the one we usually get.”

Her – “Yeah, I know.”

Off they went, disappearing into the store.

Five minutes later, they bounded out with the cookie dough and some change. I wondered if my girl’s friend also was nudged to do such things at her home.

Me – “Does your mom nudge you to go in and buy things on your own?”

Her – “No. I wish she did.”

That was music to my ears. Kids want to be given little challenges that help them experience being more competent in life.

Since my girl was quite young, I’ve been nudging her to go up to adults to ask for things. Our first win, years ago, was when she mustered the courage to go up and ask for a to go box at a Panera’s. That was a big deal.

Most notable was when she went into Trader Joe’s with a list of items, got a cart and shopped on her own. It had taken some nudging and persuasion to get her to do that one, but she was beaming with pride after she pulled off.

Being that my girl is more naturally introverted, these nudges are as much about self-confidence in dealing with adults as they are about forming life skills. I steadily nudge her, month after month, so she’s used to eventually mustering up the courage.