Saturday, February 20, 2010

Love what your kids love, part 2

Ok, I really wanted to get back to something I started talking about a couple of weeks ago. I got off track, but that was ok with me, because the message was good, but I knew I wanted to get back to this, so here we are.

About 4 years ago, both of my girls danced at a local studio and I was there quite a bit with them both. In fact, I still can't listen to Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani as I heard it weekly being danced by the team when I was there for my girls' classes. Please don't say b-a-n-a-n-a-s! I got to know the dance team as they were there on the nights when Kedzie was tapping and Madi was learning her jazz rountine. For the most part, they were the average dance team, except for one team member, a boy. I remember thinking, and I am sorry to say this, "I wonder what his dad thinks about his dancing?" I know that I was immature thinking this wasn't the cool thing for a boy to do. I wondered if he got teased by his buddies for wanting to dance with a bunch of girls. I wondered if his dad was teased because his son dances. I felt all the stereotypes about what boys should or shouldn't do and dancing was one of the things that should be left to the girls. We had tried our son Austyn in dance and later our son Logan but neither liked it at all and I was totally fine with that. My opinion of boys in dance changed when I saw the end-of-the-year dance recital. Not only did that boy on dance team hold his own, he really stood out as a good dancer. Right then and there, I realized that boys could do anything girls could do and sometimes better!

Fast forward ahead to the summer of 2008. Madison was taking a summer dance class at our studio in Nebraska. I took my then 6 year old, Logan, with me to watch. Next thing I know he is in the class with her and trying all the hip hop moves that she is doing. I signed him up for the class that day and both Madison and Logan took classes all summer. I really thought it was great exercise for Logan and a great skill builder for Madison. Little did I know that this class would open the eyes of the studio director and his teacher about his dancing. In fact, shortly after the class had ended, I received a call from the studio director, stating that they were so impressed with Logan, that they wanted him to join dance team and they wanted to audition girls to dance with him in a number that they would choreograph with him as the center of attention. I have to admit, those old stereotypes and my insecurities came racing back to the surface. A summer class was one thing, but joining dance team was a different thing all together. Then I remembered that boy at the old studio and decided it was up to Logan.

Of course Logan said yes, or there would be no story and so began his dancing experience. I could go into all the dances and all the competitions and how much he loves it, but that is not the point here. The point is to love what your kids love! I am so glad that I didn't say he couldn't dance because he was a boy. I'm so glad that my own insecurities didn't make me worry about what other men would think because my son was a dancer. I am so glad that I asked my son if he wanted to dance because he shined on the dance team.

He is dancing again this year in more numbers and in more styles of dance. He never tires of dancing and never gives me a hard time about practice. He really looks forward to his time at the studio. This is something he really likes! Of course I do have some male influence on him still. He does play basketball, soccer and baseball in addition to dance. Not too long ago he told me that his plan is to be a professional dancer and a professional baseball player. I am not sure how he plans to do this, but you can bet that I will support him 100%. One of his buddies on his basketball team heard he wouldn't be the game next weekend because he has his first dance competition. The boy laughed when Logan confirmed this. When we were walking to the car, he asked me why his friend laughed. I said I was sorry that happened and I didn't know why he laughed. Logan said, "He is probably just jealous because he doesn't know how to dance." I said, "You're probably right!"

Friday, February 12, 2010

The home telephone vs. social media

I remember a time when you would talk for hours on the home phone with friends. There wasn't much to say, since you had just seen them hours before, but that didn't stop the long conversations from taking place. You would talk until your parents got so mad that they would hang up for you or you would get the look that said, either hang up the phone now or I will cut the cord and you will never call anyone ever again. Do you remember that? Ok, well I wasn't one of those who abused the phone, but I had plenty of friends that did. As I became an adult and met parents with teenage kids, I would hear that same story told to me from the parent's perspective. I told myself when I become a parent, I will have strict policies about phone use. Only certain hours of the day could the phone be used for recreational use. Children needed to check in with me regarding all phone calls. All calls would originate from the kitchen and parents would be privy to all conversations. Well, I have kids that are into their teenage years now, so I was all ready with my phone rules. Unfortunately for me, the rules have now changed. I am now having to come up with new rules to deal with the way teens are communicating today.

First came the cell phone. Actually, I have been in favor of my kids having one of these. With their ever increasing schedule, it is good to be able to get in touch with them, especially when dad knows he is going to be late for a pickup. That never happens, but knowing they can get ahold of me or vise versa is very important. Then came texting. Jury is still out on the importance of this for the well being of the kids. Things can be said in a text that wouldn't be said in person. Inappropriate texting is also a big issue for me. I check my kids text messages to make sure I know who they are talking to and what is being said. I have begun texting myself and find it to be an easy way to communicate with others. I started texting when my sister-in-law said it would be a good way to relate to my kids and she was right. It is kind of fun to send a quick message and the response from your kids is "you are a dork!" Picture mail is not something that we allow. With all the sexting going around, I totally wanted that restricted. I don't even send picture mail.

The cell phone was my warm up to what would come next, social media. My wife is in the communication field and social media describes all those networking sites. For my daughter, that means facebook. When she turned 13, we told her she could have a facebook page. Actually, she didn't even want one, but some of her out of town friends had their own and they wanted to keep in touch with her, so we suggested that she get one. At first, it was just one word answers back and forth between a few girls, but now her friend list has grown and is almost more than mine. Now, not only do I need to check her text messages, I have to read her facebook page. You see, the rule was, that if she got a facebook page, I got her login and password and could check it anytime I wanted. That keeps her honest about what she writes, but lets her talk with her friends. We also have a rule about who she can be friends with. Her mom and I told her that just because someone wants to be her friend, it doesn't mean that she has to allow it, so she will ask us about some kids that ask to be her friend.

I have been happy with how our kids have handled texting and now facebook. I think that is because we have given our kids good guidelines to follow and they know they will be held accountable for their actions. After reading some messages that were texted or posted on facebook, I know that some parents do not have these same guidelines with their kids. When kids aren't being held accountable, that is when problems arise.

So, now we have new rules for texting and facebook. When I was a first time parent, I never imagined either of these two things. I suppose there will be new technology in the future that my wife and I will have to deal with and come up with even more rules and accountability. I am up for the challenge. If you ever want to talk about coming up with your own rules, feel free to call me at home. No one ever uses that anymore.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Love what your kids love

Growing up, the one thing I loved to do most of all was play baseball. In the summer, I would ride my bike all over town to find a game. Yes, I went without a helmet and sometimes would ride a couple of miles to find a lob ball game. Times were different then, but I digress. Come wintertime, I tried to pass the time with baseball cards and my legos, but neither could compare. I couldn't wait for the snow to melt and get out there with my friends to play. I played all summer long with some guys I still call friends today. I have lots of great memories of those times and when I became a dad, I couldn't wait to share those experiences with my kids.

I started with the girls at a young age and coached their t-ball teams and later their coach pitch softball teams. I know they enjoyed the time with Dad, but softball wasn't really their favorite sport. Before long, I was loving soccer and basketball as much as they were. In fact, I started getting into watching and now really look forward to their games. Baseball was a part of me, but didn't mean it had to be a part of them. Besides, I thought, I still have my boys.

I picked up with them as I had with the girls and they quickly took to it and really liked it. Watching both of them develop gave me hope that one would turn into the next left-handed phenom pitcher for the Cubs. I guy can dream, right? Well, that might not be their dream and I have come to realize that I am fine with that. They are both looking forward to the baseball season, but they also are looking forward to soccer starting next month, the dance competition coming up in a couple of weeks, finishing the "Battle of the Books competition" novel and the Jump Rope-a-thon.

What I have realized over time as a dad is that it isn't about me anymore. It is about them and helping them become the best people they can be and support them to find what really brings them joy. If it is sports, great, but if it is something else all together, that is great too! So many parents today don't feel connected to their kids and in my opinion it has to do with meeting the kids where they are and not where the parents want them to be. If kids have passion for something appropriate, it has to be encouraged. They can't be told "no" because it is deemed unimportant. Kids need to know that their parents have their back and that they are encouraged and supported at home. Parents can do so much good for their kids when they love what their kids love.

Funny thing about blogging...I came into this today focused on writing about something else, but this just flowed today. I do feel passionately about this topic and found I had more to write about it than I had thought. Good news is, I feel really passionate about my next topic too, so check back next week for a follow-up. Thanks for reading.