Alien Classroom Adventures (Self-expression, Boldness, Creative living, Making learning fun)

All year, I’ve been volunteering at her school on Tuesdays doing science experiments along with another mom. Our grand finale is tomorrow.

Tonight, we worked on the costume and built a rocket.

As it turned out, I was up until 3am working on an audio file filled with alien sounds, a narrator and zombie groans. It will be played in the classroom during the bit.

What I hope my daughter gets from it, besides a good time, is silent permission to express herself boldly and creatively in the world.

Learning About Papa (Valuing grandparents, Family, New experiences)

My daughter hasn’t seen too many sides to Papa. She knows him as her grandfather whom she sees almost daily now that they live here in our town. She doesn’t know much about his career and many stints in volunteerism.

Last night, he was giving a talk to a Rotary Club on health, drawing from his own story of having overcome cancer through natural remedies. I took my daughter for a new experience and to support Papa. We’re in it to win it together is my mentality.

My Dad did a fine job with his presentation. She got to see him doing public speaking and presenting, which is good for her to see. Those are skills she will need in life, so it’s good to see that in our family we are comfortable with it. She also had the opportunity to develop her comfort in a new environment with people asking her questions.

After we left, she said that she wants to cut down on sugar and for me to do the same. So, I guess Papa had an impact.

The Ocean Is Happy Today (Quality time, Spontaneity, Balance, Doing your part in a family)

It was a relaxed Sunday morning. No tennis lessons to teach. Nothing scheduled for her. Wide open with possibilities.

By the time she awoke and approached me at my desk, I was deep into writing one of several books I’m developing.

Her – “Can we go biking?”

Me – “Biking? Wow, you haven’t asked that for a while. Okay. Give me ten minutes.”

She sighed.

Me – “Well, I’m really into what I’m writing. Let me just finish up this part.”

Off she went.

About five minutes later, she plopped a folded piece of paper on my desk. It was a card. It said “I love you, Daddy” (though I think she accidentally wrote Sassy) and a picture from a couple years ago of the two of us biking to get a popsicle.

Me – “Aww, so sweet. It’s beautiful. And a picture of us biking. Did you make this to prompt me to get going?”

Her – “No, I made it because I love you.”

I smiled and hugged her.

Me – “Look at all of these things you’ve made for me.”

I pointed to all sorts of gifts from her on my desk and behind my desk, and those only accounted for about one fiftieth of the little gifts she has made for me over the years.

Me – “You’re so sweet to me with all of your gifts and love.”

She smiled.

I finished up my writing and off we went. Our idea had evolved into a bike ride to the beach, something we hadn’t done in a while, despite it being just a short ride away.

When we got there, I was surprised to see quite a few people in the water. Indeed, the cold months had passed.

Her – “Daddy, let’s make a sand castle!”

Me – “Hmm… I sort of want to put my feet in the water first.”

We walked to the water’s edge. I grinned at her and dove in.

Her – “Daddy, I don’t have a swimsuit on!”

Me – “So!”

In she dove.

The water was absolutely perfect. She stared out into the ocean and sky.

Her – “It’s beautiful.”

I was moved that she was present to that and that, even as a child, she appreciated it. In fact, it made me more aware of the beauty engulfing us.

Her – “Let’s take seven deep breaths.”

We did.

Her – “The ocean is happy today. Normally, it’s dark, but today it’s light. It must be happy.”

Indeed, the water was a soft turquoise.

Me – “It’s happy because you’re in it.”

She smiled.

The water was churning considerably which made it perfect for body surfing. We took full advantage of it for a good 45 minutes. With each arriving wave, she pointed and squealed in delight like she was three years old, “Daddy, Daddy!”

At one point, as she was singing songs from Disney’s ‘Moana,’ she called out to the ocean to send in big waves. Oddly enough, a series of big waves followed.

Me – “You’re powerful! You spoke to the ocean, and it listened. You’re the wave whisperer!”

She loved that idea and kept on calling them in.

I also used the opportunity in the ocean to talk with her again about rip tides and how to deal with it if you find yourself in one.

Eventually, I suggested we head home to get something to eat. To my surprise, she didn’t remember the sand castle idea. Maybe that’s because another idea had taken hold.

Her – “Daddy, can we go get an ice cream at the Orange Octopus? We haven’t done that in a while.”

Me – “We haven’t even had lunch yet.”

Her – “I know, but it’s Sunday.”

On this day, it seemed like good enough logic to me.

I had coordinated with our friend Deirdre for her next piano lesson. Deirdre taught her the start to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, my absolute favorite. I’m excited that I’ll be hearing her practice that for weeks.

Now, I always strive for a balance of me time and we time, so I worked on a playdate with her for the afternoon. She was delighted when one of the parents I tried called back saying that her daughter could come over.

Anticipating her friend’s arrival she paused and looked at me-

Her – “Thank you, Daddy.”

It was a win-win. I got back to work on one of my books while they played and then joined them in the pool at the tail-end.

The day was like being in a movie where one scene transitioned into another…

As her friend’s mom was preparing her daughter to leave, Nonna and Papa came in, bringing dinner.

When it was time to set the table, she resisted my mom’s request.

Her – “I don’t want to.”

She was tired, but that was not going to cut it for me. It’s a family, and we all need to pitch in. After a look of dissatisfaction that prompted her to head to the kitchen to get plates for the table, I followed her in and quietly added some words.

Me – “Listen, everyone around here does all sorts of generous things for you, every day, all day. I don’t want to hear that you don’t want to help out. We’re a family, and we all do our part. Got it?”

Her – “Yes, Daddy.”

After a delicious dinner, instead of letting everyone disperse into TV time I suggested to her that we play cards with Nonna and Papa. It was the first time we had done this and good fun. Nonna cleaned house, and I finished last.

Finally, her day ended with me reading her Harry Potter. After concluding¬†the second chapter of Book 4, I prepared to turn off the light but first turned to her…

Me – “Let me see you.”

She looked into my eyes, and I looked into hers. It’s a simple way of connecting and being present that I like to do with her now and then.

With the light off, I asked her to name three things she was grateful for. She went through her day and came up with eight.

I Just Want to Say I Love You (Connection, Love)

She had enjoyed a full day.

Her pal Ryan had been over for yet another sleep over to watch Harry Potter 3 the night before, and then, after pool time, his parents took them to see ‘Wonder Woman.’

In the evening, she, Nonna and Papa and I went to some friends of mine for dinner. They have two very young kids, and it was the first time I remember being in such a situation where she was the oldest child. She was lovely with the younger kids, and I was thrilled to see this nurturing side of her.

At bedtime, tired from an already full weekend, she collapsed in bed.

I checked in with her as I do now and then by asking about her inner world. Even if she doesn’t answer with anything specific, it’s a way of letting her know I’m always available to discuss what’s on her heart and mind.

Me – “Anything you want to talk about or share? Anything you want to ask?”

Her – “No, I just want to say I love you.”

And off she drifted to sleep.

Another good day.

A Bagel with Cream Cheese (Rituals, Bonding, Stability)

Before a parenting time schedule change back in March, I used to take her to a Microsoft Minecraft class with home schooled kids.

I’d pick her up at school about 15 minutes early and drive her over to the mall. Some of her friends who are home schooled were in the class and, together, in a virtual world, they collaborated in creating rich worlds with their imaginations. Afterwards, they would get up and present their worlds to the rest of the kids. I saw it as another excellent way to nurture her intelligence and to bond with her friends through creativity.

After these trips, she would be hungry after the class, so we’d stop at the Starbucks kiosk and each get a bagel. Her choice was multi-grain with cream cheese, mine multi-grain with too much butter.

Yesterday, my friend David, who organizes many events such as these for home schooled kids, sent me a message to ask if we’d like to be included on an alternate day. Not sure if it’s a one time thing or if there will be more, but I said yes.

This time, they collaborated to make a digital resort. It was impressive.

And, afterwards, right on cue, she asked for a snack.

Me – “Let me guess. You want a bagel with cream cheese.”

Her – “Yep!”

So, we said goodbye to our friends, ventured over and got our order. It was just five minutes of munching before we headed out as I had a commitment to tend to, but those five minutes had a special glow about them.

Why?

I think it’s because it’s a ritual now. We have more pronounced and elaborate rituals than this one, but it’s still a ritual. The act of doing it brings up all the other times it has been done together and affirms that bond without a word being said.

I’m going to keep looking for opportunities like this to sew rituals into her childhood.

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.