Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas is Here!!

Finally, Christmas is here!! It’s time to celebrate the birth of Jesus and, in keeping with the American tradition, give tons of presents to your kids!

Have you ever considered the gift that your child wants the most? A bike? No. A guitar or drum set? No. A computer or software? No. How about an iPod? No.

Although I have never met a child who has refused to accept the aforementioned gifts, the gift that your child truly wants is ................... YOU!! Yes, despite their daily rants about the restrictions that you place upon them, the multitude of “unfair” accusations that are lobbed your way, and the total disdain with which they look at you sometimes, the most important gift to any child is YOU and your TIME!

Similar to my own story with my own son, a few years ago, a 6th grade student (11 years old) named Robert told me about the harrowing experience that he had encountered with his dad during the previous weekend. His dad was hanging Christmas lights from their gutters on their 2-story home. It was somewhat windy and his dad even mentioned that he was a little concerned climbing up and down the ladder. At one point, he told his son to hold the bottom of the ladder just in case the wind decided to wreak some havoc.

Quite quickly, Robert became worried and he began to visualize the worst - how would his life change if his dad bought the farm while trying to beautify their home for the season? Within moments, Robert implored his dad to forget the lights for the season or try on another day. His dad told him that he would be too busy on all of the future weekends before Christmas. So, it was now or never. Robert voted for never.

Despite the bikes, guitars, drums sets, iPods, etc., that Robert’s mom and dad had provided in the past or might provide in the future, at that very moment he learned that his most important gift was his parents. He realized that, most important of all, he liked having his mom and dad home early from work; he liked their help with homework; he liked knowing that his dad would battle the “bad guys” if they broke in during the night; and he realized that his mom and dad took care of all of his needs because they loved him.

Without his parents and the time that they spent with him, Robert, on that windy Sunday afternoon, suddenly realized that he would have nobody to take care of him. Needless to say, according to Robert, his gift "needs" changed on that day.

When I asked Robert about that incident a few years later, he reiterated that the windy Sunday had changed him forever, from being a greedy kid who wanted tons of presents to a kid who smiled each night before he went to sleep, complete with the knowledge that he had parents who were in the same house and that they loved him!

So, yes, despite their constant blathering about their parents and their foibles and other deficiencies, kids are happiest and most secure when they have parents who love them, spend time with them, provide for their needs, have fun with them, and provide the emotional security blanket that they so richly need.

Merry Christmas and give your child the most needed and most precious Christmas gift of all ...... YOU!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blood+Yahtzee = Family? Part 2

(Continued from December 12, 2009) ...... So, we dragged out the Yahtzee game, wiped off the dust that had gathered from years of inactivity, and sat down to play. After reviewing the rules of the game and inserting my favorite Yahtzee joke (the joke, by the way, is - “There is more to this game than meets the die”!!), we sat down to play a game. Three hours later, we had finished 4 games, while exchanging stories, sharing laughs, and bonding just like we did when they were little tykes!

Even with our competitive natures, it did not seem to matter who won. The only thing that seemed to matter was that we were together enjoying each other’s company for a prolonged period of time – not just exchanging a few short words as one enters or leaves the house, which had all too often become the case in recent times.

The next day after church, one of my kids announced that it was again time for Yahtzee!! Without much delay, everybody gathered at the kitchen table for another 3 hours of Yahtzee, while again enjoying stories, jokes, and even slightly non-offensive disagreements over the rules.

My daughter even made a few cracks about my alleged receding hairline, a myth (O.K., it’s a fact!) that she had previously been reluctant to share. But, with the camaraderie of the game in full swing, she let loose, much to the delight of the peanut gallery!

Since that weekend, we have played Yahtzee on most weekends. To add some spice to the events, we have invented our own rules for Yahtzee, such as the person with the most 6’s after ten turns wins, or the person with the most 1’s after 10 turns wins, etc.

My youngest son has also introduced Chess to the equation. As Chess only involves two players at time, it has become a good substitute for Yahtzee when others are gone. I am sure that even more games will become a part of our weekly FAMILY GAME NIGHT as time progresses. YES, a new family tradition has started in our home. I am only sorry that we did not start years ago!

So, yes, while enduring the pain of stabbing needles, while losing boatloads of blood (O.K., it was only two vials!), and hearing about nonsensical lab technician stories to get through the awkward moments, one can learn something. In this case, we learned that our family has become closer, enjoys being together more often, and that a lifelong tradition has started with gusto!

Of course, the lesson for all is to not wait until your kids are too old to start a FAMILY GAME NIGHT. And, of course, it’s never too late! The fun that you have will last for a lifetime ..... even if it costs you a little blood!

So, how about you? Do you have any rituals for family fun? Please pass them along!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Blood+Yahtzee = Family? Part 1

One never knows what you might learn while enduring a blood test. One thing appears certain, however - the lab technician, a person whom you have most likely never met, will, out of some level of insecurity that must exist while poking complete strangers with needles and taking their blood, attempt to engage you in some sort of mindless conversation to get through the apparently awkward moments.

Much to my chagrin, I have been “victimized” by talk of the weather, the Detroit Tigers, the newest purse that the technician purchased, stories about their kids, their upcoming blind dates, and, well, a myriad of stories/topics that are meant to get the technician and the patient through the potentially uncomfortable moments between two strangers.

HOWEVER, I recently engaged the technician in a conversation that has changed life for my whole family! While having my blood taken by the technician, she repeatedly told me that she had worked 8 straight days, she was due to go home in about five minutes, and she was going to relax. To be polite, I asked her if she had any other plans for the rest of the weekend.

After going through a litany of her obligations for the weekend, including attending a wedding, selecting a ring for her own engagement, buying new clothes, etc., she also spoke of a pending Sunday night FAMILY GAME NIGHT at her parents’ house. Ignoring the stabbing pain of the needles and the draining of what appeared to be multiple gallons of my blood, I pressed for details.

She indicated that, even though she and her sisters had moved out on their own, all of them return to their parents' house every Sunday night for game night. She then listed the different types of games that they often played, all of them popular games, including Pictionary, card games, Monopoly, etc.

Even during the stabbing with the needles, my mind quickly bought into the idea. YES, we would establish a FAMILY GAME NIGHT at our house. Since all of my kids still live at home, it would be an easy tradition to start – hopefully starting a tradition that would last a lifetime, long after they move out!

So, later that night, Band-Aids and gauze still affixed to my arm, I gathered my kids around the kitchen and I announced that FAMILY GAME NIGHT was about to begin. Although I somewhat feared the “lame dad” reaction, much to my delight, they agreed to give it a shot!

(Please come back next Saturday for the conclusion!)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dads and Video Games? - Part 2

(Continued from November 28, 2009) ...... The next morning, I got up at about 7:00 a.m. When I realized that all of my kids were still sleeping, I ventured downstairs to …. well, O.K., I decided to play Wii Bowling for a few minutes – NOT THAT I WAS ADDICTED OR ANYTHING!!

However, much to my dismay, I had no clue as to how to turn on the system. I tried everything that I could for about an hour. Again, NOT THAT I WAS BECOMING ADDICTED OR ANYTHING, but I finally had to wake up my youngest son at about 8:00 a.m. for instructions. He provided the needed tips and I was off to practice Wii Bowling by myself (a sign of addiction?) for about two hours with my right arm, both legs, and back howling at the sudden resurrection of a childhood activity!

I did everything in that game for two hours, including tons of strikes, tons of spares, converting splits, rolling several 200 games, and ….. well, admittedly, I was beginning to think about the fact that I just couldn’t walk away and, uh, you know, do things that a normal dad does.

At about 10:00 a.m., my youngest son came down and said, “Um, dad, you woke me up for instructions on the Wii and now you’re sweating while playing alone in the family room …… uh, what would you say to me at a moment like this”?

I menacingly glared at him and said, “That doesn’t matter right now – pick up a remote and prepare to be defeated”!!!

For the next few days, I took on all comers and I showed no mercy while defeating each whippersnapper one at a time!! YES, I was in my element and YES, I pulled a muscle when the rug slipped, but, hey, man, I was in the groove; rolling 200’s and winning!

Well, alrighty then, since my own dad is no longer here to drag me away from the video game, I did the only responsible thing that a dad can do – I played several more games; defeated everybody several more times; and then I peacefully walked away, as my right arm, both legs, and back all left me for another, less competitive dad!

O.K., I’m exaggerating about the addiction on my part, as I knew the signs and stopped long before I crossed the line. But, if you can play a few games with your kids, even if it involves video games, go for it! The memories that we made over the weekend will last a lifetime – which is about how long it will be before I physically recover from my injuries!

Also, a good lesson would be as follows: While playing a video game with your kids, try to notice if you “feel the rush” that kids feel when they play video games. It is real and it can be dangerously addictive – so be careful, but have some fun with your kids, too!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dads and Video Games? - Part 1

I have long written about the evils and dangers of video games, particularly with regard to inappropriate content and the possibility of becoming addicted to them. Far too often, I have seen adolescents and teens begin to play video games for fun and, before long, their sole focus in life seems to be video games. They can’t get enough; the content turns more sinister; and they disengage from regular life.

With all of that in mind, can dads become addicted to video games? OF COURSE NOT!! …. Or can they?? Well, after reading the details of my family’s Thanksgiving Weekend, you can decide!

After spending the entire day together watching the Detroit Lions and talking about life, we finally settled down for dinner at around 8:00 p.m. After the dinner, as I was contemplating going to bed for the night, my youngest child (15) tried to get the whole family involved in a simple video game, called “Mario Cart”.

My two older children (18 and 21) quickly took the bait and they began to get their controllers ready for the big match. As I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about actually playing video games, let alone trying to beat experienced whippersnappers, I tried my best to beg off. My kids would have nothing to do with it. Before I knew it, in an attempt to keep the Thanksgiving camaraderie going, I was involved in a “Mario Cart” game with my 3 offspring, each of whom was far superior in skill to me!

Needless to say, after several agonizing minutes of losing round after round, the game mercifully ended and I officially finished in LAST PLACE!

After that humiliating experience, I asked my kids if they had some type of sports video game. To keep the evening going, they all too eagerly indicated that they had "Sports Wii" and they would be happy to challenge me in those games, as well.

Well, back in the day, I was a halfway decent bowler (I averaged in the 180’s in high school), so I challenged them to a game of Wii blowing. Mustering all of the skill that I once possessed, as well as recalling my competitive nature to the forefront, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Wii Bowling game actually utilizes skills that are similar to real bowling! Trying to not foam at the mouth (after all, that would be a sign of video game addiction!), I used my old bowling style to BLOW AWAY my first competitor. I then proceeded to systematically and soundly defeat the other two challengers! YES, I was on a roll!

For the next 2-3 hours, I blew away all competition in regular bowling, power bowling, and spares bowling. There was no stopping me now!! Near the midnight hour, long after I should have been sleeping, I mercifully allowed my kids to play a different game without me and I quietly ventured to bed, sore right arm, both legs, and back barely intact.........

(Come back next Saturday for the exciting conclusion!)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My Son Has Surpassed Me!

Way back in the dark ages when I was a young whippersnapper, I spent an inordinate amount of time playing, practicing, and trying to perfect my artistry on percussion instruments, particularly the drum set. Of course, since this was in the days before videos, the Internet, and file sharing, I had to make due with recordings on vinyl!

Yes, every time that I got a few bucks in my pocket I would travel to the local store that had discounted jazz records and I would stock up. To this day, recordings of Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson, Butch Miles, Tony Williams, along with several more, align my shelves with records that have been substantially worn!

Through all of my diligence, attention to detail, and hours of practice, others believed that I had become reasonably decent on the drums. Attempting to imitate my drumming hero, Buddy Rich, while also fitting in with the group, I did my best to be the best drummer that I could be.

I always held first chair in the percussion section from middle school through high school; I was able to attain the same position in college for our trip to China; and I spent several years playing drums with some of the better musicians in the Detroit area. In fact, my drumming provided the necessary funds for all of my college expenses, including tuition.

Now, fast-forwarding several years, my youngest son showed an interest in drums at a very early age. Even before he reached a year old, he would sing tunes as they were written and then he would embellish the melody with jazzy nuances. He would also produce various percussion sounds with syncopated rhythms.

Throughout his childhood, my drum set was always set up and he would often hit the tubs to work out various rhythms with all four appendages. I often provided informal instruction to him to provide a more regimented routine and to ensure that only good habits developed.

At some point, it was time to join the school band and, of course, he chose to play percussion. He quickly excelled and rose to the top of the 5th grade! He even performed a solo in front of 500 people after being in band for only 2 months!

With his growing interest in percussion, I began to give him formal lessons. While the lessons propelled him even further, it was quite obvious to me that another teacher could provide a better level of instruction for him.

We managed to contact a gentleman who is considered to be one of the best percussionists in the entire region (this particular teacher was getting ready to graduate from college as I was entering the same college hundreds of years ago!). His lessons with this gentleman propelled him even further into the world of excellence with his drumming, to the point that was able to accomplish things on the drums at age 15 that I had not yet mastered at my advanced age!

Recently, he performed a drum set solo at the talent show at his high school. As I watched the tape of his performance, I could not believe my eyes and ears. Not only had my son surpassed my professional level of drumming, he had surpassed it by so much, that his favorite dad will never be able to catch up!

His rhythms are perfectly executed, his musical ideas (dynamics, phrasing, etc.) are top-notch, his speed is amazing, and even his level of hot-doggedness is as good as any (not that I was ever a hot dog, of course!).

So, at the ripe old age of 15 years old, how did my own son greatly surpass me in the world of drumming, a world that I used to own in our family? Practice, diligence, training, attention to detail, a natural knack for the tubs, constant hearing of songs and rhythms in the home since birth, and, well, who knows what else?

What I do know is this: My son has attained a level of professionalism that is not frequently seen at age 15. Am I bragging? Well, not on purpose. Am I proud of his accomplishments? ABSOLUTELY!!

As a final humbling note, my son actually credits ME with his drumming prowess. No son, I helped to get you there, but you are the one who made it happen. Keep up the great work in everything that you do!

As a final note #2, guess which drum set my son uses for his live performances? Yes, the Buddy Rich drum set that my parents gave to me when I was ...... 15 years old!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Performing With My Sons

Back on April 18, 2009, I wrote about the opportunity that I had to sing in church with my favorite daughter (actually, she is my only daughter, but she is still my favorite!). Even though I have been involved in professionally performing music for over 30 years, I had never had the chance to perform with my own children.

So, yes, the little girl who used to hug her daddy good-bye as he left the house on a Friday or Saturday night to play music, eventually grew into adulthood and, yes, finally shared a song with me in public.

Well, 2009 has been quite the year, as I recently had the chance to perform with both of my sons at the same time, making 2009 the year during which I first got to perform with all of my kids!

During a summer outdoor concert for which I was hired to perform, the organizers wanted me to showcase some “youth” for about five minutes during my performance. I boldly asked if I could have my own sons perform and, much to my delight, the question was met with a resounding “YES!”

So, after a few weeks of rehearsing a tune that I wrote for the occasion, we were ready to showcase our stuff to the world (well, at least 250 people). With me on vibes, my oldest son on guitar, and my youngest son on the drum set, coupled with pre-recorded piano and bass parts, we were ready to go.

About 45 minutes into my performance, I announced that the organizers had wanted me to showcase some youth. So, as we had a previously unused drum set on the stage, I asked if there was a youth boy/girl who would like to come up and play the drums. I looked around the audience and said, “Why, yes, we have a young man in the back who has volunteered.” The audience appropriately cheered. I then announced that he was coming up with his own drum sticks. The audience began to sense a scam! I then complimented him on his good looks and suggested that he must look just like his dad! The audience erupted in laughter and cheering as they realized that it must have been my own son who was making his way to the stage!

I then asked if any youth boy/girl wanted to play the previously unused guitar that was on the stage. A young man raised his hand and I said, “Why, yes, young man, please come up and join us.” The audience cheered. I then mentioned that he was also good looking and that he must look like his dad, too! The audience again cheered when they realized that I was just about to perform with two of my own children!

(Keeping it from a clean sweep with all of my kids was the fact that my daughter was performing music at a professional level in another state!).

At any rate, we started the nearly 8-minute tune (they agreed to “lower” their standards and play some Smooth Jazz with me), which featured the melody, a vibes solo and extended guitar and drum solos! Needless to say, my boys made me proud with their professional and prepared approach, their conquering of nerves, and their terrific performances.

In fact, when we finished, I told the audience that I had always told my sons that they would always have a place to live until they surpassed me in music proficiency. I then said that, based upon the performance that they had just given, they would be exiting the home right after we got home! The audience cheered wildly for both boys – deservedly so! They were outstanding!

Yes, their performances were terrific! But, even if they had performed poorly, it was a treat to FINALLY play on stage in public with my two favorite sons!

They each have terrific music careers ahead of them. And, even when I become old and frail (which will be about 150 years from now!), I will still remember the day that we shared a stage early in their careers! YES!!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rite of Passage

For nearly as long as I can remember, I have been the primary driver for my son’s guitar lessons. Yes, starting back when was 9-years-old, I faithfully drove him to his lessons every single week, ensuring that I would not stay late at work on Friday evenings, so that I could beat the traffic home in the one hour drive, just in time to race up to my son’s bedroom, listen to the lesson and perhaps make a few suggestions, and then fly to the car to make the 25-minute drive to the lesson.

After a few years, we added Art lessons on Saturday mornings, so we changed his guitar lessons to Saturday afternoons. Then, irrespective of the “tired” factor from the busy week, we would rise around 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, drive one hour to the 3-hour Art lesson (he studied Art while I caught up on work-related projects), stop at a new restaurant every Saturday, run a few errands, and then drive one-hour to his guitar lesson. We would finally get home between 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. to start the weekend around the house (As you might have guessed, our yard did not look all that terrific for a few years!!).

For about 9 years, nearly 50 days per year, for a total of about 450 individual trips of:
1) Beating traffic
2) Nearly breaking the sound barrier
3) Listening to my son’s last-minute attempts to improve his lesson material
4) Nearly breaking the sound barrier again to get him to his lessons (by the way, for my Law Enforcement friends, the “sound barrier” thing is an exaggeration – placed here solely for purposes of humor!!)

Yes, my schedule had to be grossly adjusted to fit my son’s Art and guitar lessons. Although my regular work schedule is already quite time-consuming, the extra driving to get him to his lessons left little time for relaxation.

Of course, as you might have guessed, I also used the time alone with my son to discuss a myriad of topics in life, including friends, school, future goals, his plans, etc. Yes, as busy as life was for all of those years, I would not trade those days for anything, as they allowed the two of us to spend many hours together with focused time – time that I heavily utilized to influence him toward making good and positive decisions in life.

I have often been asked how I was able to sustain those Fridays and Saturdays, week after week, for all of those years, seemingly driving a million miles a week to get my son to his lessons. From a physical standpoint, I have no clue. I simply started the car and we took off. From an emotional or parental standpoint, my answer is simple: How could I NOT have spent all of those years driving my son to his lessons?

Yes, as tiring as the driving came to be, not to mention the stress of rushing around, I realized that the weeks, hours, and years provided valuable time for us to be together. I also realized that it was a relatively short window of opportunity to be together. No matter how busy we got during the week, I could always count on several hours on Fridays or Saturdays to spend with my son to ensure that he was staying on the straight and narrow track of life.

And, sure enough, the RITE OF PASSAGE came last week. My son came in possession of the two items that will make any dad cringe …… a driver’s license and a car! Ouch!!

The possession of the license and keys led to the following RITE OF PASSAGE: On Saturday morning, as it was time to leave for his guitar lesson, my son loaded his guitar in the car, got in, started the car, and drove away to his lesson ….. while his favorite dad stood in the open doorway and waved good-bye – suddenly realizing that the 9-year window of opportunity had instantly closed. BAM!

Yes, the days of spending major drive time with my son while driving him to his lessons are now gone, probably forever. But, the memories of our discussions, sometimes serious and sometimes filled with laughter, will live with both of us forever!

As I have told parents over the years, PLEASE spend as much time with your kids as possible, especially when they are young and your influence is the strongest. Your children are looking to you for leadership, nurturing, love, and care, the types of which must be provided by you, so that they’re not provided by somebody else, such as a nefarious or ill-willed individual.

Spend time with your kids, drive them to where they need to go, go without sleep, etc. There will be plenty of time to rest on future Saturday mornings as they drive themselves off to a lesson, leaving you behind to sit and deal with a multitude of emotions, including sadness with the instant realization that a window has closed, but joy when you realize that you did your best and that you never shortchanged your children!

So, how about you? Do you spend a lot of time with your kids – sometimes to the point where you make sacrifices that you never dreamed that you would make? If so, write back and tell me about it – and keep doing it – it will pay off in the future!!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Does God Allow "STILLS"?

When my youngest child was three-years-old, he enjoyed engaging in debates that could possibly (hopefully – in his mind!) lead to the delaying of his assigned tasks. i.e., putting away his toys, helping to clean the table after dinner, etc. No matter the assigned task, he would always come back with another, more desirable thing that he would "need" to complete BEFORE he could complete the assigned task.

For example, if I were to tell him to put away his toys, he would come back with a retort of, “I will, but first I have to watch a television show” or “I will, but I have to finish this game first”. When I would remind him that putting way his toys would take 30 seconds and that he could have them put away before the beginning of the alleged television show, his response would be, “Yeah, but STILL”. When I would tell him that his game would be there on the table after he completed his assigned task, he would say, “Yeah, but STILL”.

Yeah, but STILL!!! How many times did I hear that expression from him? Oh, approximately 1,205,984,208 times before his 4th birthday!!

His “Yeah, but STILL(s)” would often lead to issues that needed to be resolved. Essentially, as a three-year-old, he was seeking to take control of the situation from his favorite dad! If he could do anything first before the assigned task, he could view it as an achieved victory over dad. And, if his chosen task could take long enough, maybe he would never get to the task that had been assigned (ah, yes, his master plan)!!

So, since the point of assigning small tasks was to teach responsibility, it did no good to allow him to control the situation with the infamous “Yeah, but STILL”.

As his constant postponing of tasks and his constant attempts at negotiating were doing more harm than good toward his learning of responsibility, I decided to take it a step further – I decided to eliminate his “STILLS”!

One day, after assigning him a task; being met with an alternative task; telling him no; and then hearing the “Yeah, but STILL”, I said the following:

“Kids are not allowed to have STILLS!!” He laughed and wanted me to explain the reason that kids could not have “STILLS”. I simply told him that kids are just not allowed to have “STILLS”. One needed to be at least 30-years-old to have “STILLS”. Even though he knew that I was full of baloney (hmmmm, takes one to know one?), he laughed and went along with it …. at least for a few months.

For a few short months, he stopped with the “Yeah, but STILL(s)” and engaged in the assigned tasks without delay. A few months later, he was back to his old tricks and the “Yeah, but STILL(s)” had made their triumphant return!

Since the overall goal was to get him to learn a sense of responsibility and since we had raised him with the love of the Lord in the church, I finally brought out the big guns. The next time that a task was assigned and he came back with a “Yeah, but STILL”, I told him the following:

“God does not allow kids to have STILL(S)”. For one, brief shining moment, my son looked at me, seemingly stunned, and quickly began to engage in the task at hand! For the next few weeks, each time he said “Yeah, but STILL”, I reminded him that ‘God does not allow kids to have STILL(S)’. Each time, he quickly disengaged from the conversation and began to engage in the task at hand with a determined vigor to get it done right away!

Then one day, as I fully expected, he asked me how it was that I knew that ‘God does not allow kids to have STILLS’. I told him that I just knew the deal. He then turned around, looked up toward Heaven and said, “God, is that true? Are kids not allowed to have STILLS?”

Expecting more nonsense and attempts to disengage from the tasks, my son turned back toward me and said, “Dad, I guess you’re right – God DOES NOT allow kids to have STILLS”!!

And, just like that, with some quick thinking on my part and some help from the Lord, my son believed that kids were not allowed to have "STILLS" and he began to quickly complete all of his assigned tasks as quickly as they were assigned! To this day, several years later, my son willfully engages in tasks around the house – sometimes before they are assigned! Had I allowed him to get away with the "STILLS", it is doubtful that he would have had a sense of responsibility ingrained into him.

Although the story is a bit dramatic (although every word is true!), the main point is this: Your children need to learn a sense of responsibility at an early age, so that they develop that skill for later in life. Whether it’s taking out the trash, helping with yard work, helping with the dishes, putting away toys, etc., it is important that they learn to help out and even complete some tasks on their own, so that they don’t grow up to be a student, parent, spouse, professional, career person who does not have a sense of personal responsibility for the situations in which they exist.

How about you? What techniques (or tricks!!) have you used to instill a meaningful sense of responsibility in to the hearts and souls of your own kids? Let me know!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Games - A Happy Ending!

I am reminded of an 8th grade student, named Tony. One day before school in the gymnasium, a student reported to me that Tony had picked up a smaller child named Steve and body slammed him to the hard gym floor. As the Principal, I should have immediately high-tailed it to the gym. But, considering the source of the report (it was from a less-than-reputable student) and the difficult-to-believe nature of the story, I intensively questioned the student for a few more seconds.

When I decided that there might be some credence to his story, (although I still imagined that it was just a rumor), I quickly went to the gym, whereupon I saw Steve on the floor, holding his neck. After we attended to Steve (fortunately, he was not severely injured), I asked Tony what had happened.

To my disbelief, he indicated that he had picked up Steve and body-slammed him to the gym floor. He had been practicing that move for a few weeks after he had studied it on one of his video games. He also noticed that the victim on the game always got right back up and continued fighting. He wanted to see if it happened that way in real life, too! Well, Tony, in real life – people don’t get right back up and sometimes they don’t get back up at all after being body-slammed to the gym floor!

Tony was not a fool or a child with severe learning disabilities. He was an above-average student who, under ordinary circumstances, would have never tried that move in real life. However, due to video game addiction, Tony’s judgment became clouded enough that he actually began to believe that a child in real life might react in similar fashion to a video game person after becoming a victim of violence. Yes, Tony actually believed that Steve would just hop right up!

Unfortunately, Tony’s parents (separated pending an upcoming divorce) were nothing like Ben’s parents (I wrote about Ben and his parents in a previous post) who had quickly interceded on their son’s behalf. No, Tony’s parents scolded him for hurting another child and then they let him continue with his video game playing despite numerous pleas from me. To the surprise of nobody, Tony was later often suspended from high school and he became a dropout at age sixteen. Does this scenario sound familiar amongst your child's circle of friends? I hope not, but it occurs more often than you might think.

The happy ending is that we gathered a team of experts, Psychologist, Social Worker, and a Clinical Counselor, as well as some of Tony’s friends, his parents and I, and we performed an intervention. We confronted Tony about his violent behavior and his path to destruction and his journey to “loser-dom”. After nearly an hour of people telling Tony how much they cared about him, Tough-Guy Tony broke down and cried and admitted that he did not know how to deal with people, including his friends, without getting violent.

After about 6 months of intensive therapy, Tony and his Therapist concluded that his addiction to the violence on the video games had clouded his judgment and, yes, Tony had come to believe that there was no difference between the violence in video games and the violence in real life. Ouch!

Fast forwarding a few years, Tony went back to high school and graduated before venturing off to college to become a ..... yes, a Therapist! Today, he maintains a successful practice which is geared toward helping children with addictions, including the ever-growing actions to video games! Finally, a happy ending to a troubled youth!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Does 'Sissy' Want?

From the time of my oldest son's birth (he is the middle of three children) through about the time that he was two years old or so, he always copied his “sissy”. Whatever “sissy” did, he wanted to do, as well.

While some of this was cute and while all of it was done in a loving manner, it was also decided that he need to stop copying "sissy" and make his own way in the world. For example, as he always placed his restaurant order after “sissy” ordered hers, his meal order was always identical. In fact, when we asked him what he wanted to eat, he would always respond by saying, “What does sissy want?”

The first order of business was to get him to order his own meal and to be his own man! Before we left for the restaurant, I told him that he would be ordering first; he was to get whatever he wanted; and that “sissy” would place her order after he was done. I also coached him on being his own man, making his own decisions, and doing what he believed to be best for himself. After all, all people were different and, as such, there was no point in copying others just for the sake of copying.

After being seated at the restaurant, the waitress asked my son for his order. He proudly ordered spaghetti and salad with Italian dressing! Wow, quite an order for a 2-year-old to place and a gigantic leap for not copying “sissy”!!

Of course, after “sissy” placed her order for steak and a baked potato, my son considered changing his order. We told him absolutely not. He had ordered spaghetti and salad, because it was his favorite. Copying “sissy” would serve no purpose.

We quickly noticed a sense of empowerment and a sense of relief, as my son had now stepped out into the world and had made his first meal decision!!

The send of empowerment made sense. The sense of relief, I believe, came from the fact that he had entered a brave, new world and all was still O.K.!! He had learned that he could make his own decision with a stranger (the waitress) and everything would still be just fine.

From that day forward, he began to make his own decisions for his life’s direction. For example, when “sissy” chose to explore dancing, he chose to play guitar. When she chose to play clarinet, he chose to play the sax. When she chose dolls and makeup, he chose baseball and basketball.

Ah yes, an independent young man – completely prepared for the harsh realities of life! The independent decision-making, started when he was 2-years-old at a Bill Knapps’ Restaurant, has stayed with my son since that time.

However, while in high school, he decided that hew wanted to get a job to tuck away a few bucks and to earn some money for some of life’s simple pleasures. He wasn’t sure where to get his first job to work with/for people who did not love him or care for him, so ……… he asked “sissy” if she could get him a job at her place of work!

Yes, some habits, while put away neatly for several years, never quite die completely! “Sissy” came to the rescue and got him a job at her place of work.

As our two young adult children, formerly 2- and 5-years-old, walked out of the house on his first night of work, dressed in matching polo shirts and khaki pants, we couldn’t help but think back to when they were little and my son repeatedly said, “What does ‘sissy’ want?”

Yes, our oldest son has become quite independent and a young man who is capable of making his own decisions for his life. But, when a little trepidation sets in on an issue, such as getting his first job, it’s nice to know that he still turns to “sissy” and she triumphantly comes through!

Several years from now, I can just imagine this conversation:
Dad: “Well, my oldest son, to which nursing home are you sending me?”
Oldest Son: Well, what does sissy want?”

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!! Parenting – gotta love it!

How about you? Does one of your siblings copy off of another one? Have you experienced good or poor results? Have you attempted to have the copier make his/her own decisions? Write back and let me know!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Holding Out on My Son?

As I have shared in other forums, I had the opportunity to become a professional musician while I was still in high school. Through some very good and helpful folks, I had a fairly lengthy career, ripe with many opportunities for advancement.

However, around the time that I became a school Principal and my 3rd child was born, I decided to scale the music performance dates way back. I’ve kept up with the practicing over the years and I've even had the opportunity to play some concerts and clinics and even record two CD's (yes, my children have each CD in their collections and on their iPods!), but the weekly performance dates had to go.

One of my best breaks in music was that I got a chance to study with one of the greatest people, greatest teachers, and greatest musicians in the world while I was at Wayne State University. I always admired my private lesson and small group instruction teacher, as he had all of the professional and personal traits that I admired.

However, he once told me that he would never teach me everything that he knew, because he did not ever want to have to compete for a job with somebody who knew as much as he did! Although he said it with a smile, I believed that he was serious! To this day, I still believe that he was not joking!

I have told that story to my kids several times over the years. Of course, as they have progressed through their music lessons and free and professional performances, I have always told them that I would NEVER hold back with my knowledge and that I would always share everything that I knew – as long as they were prepared to learn.

Well, a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to give a public performance. This performance was special for a few reasons, one of which is that all of my children got the chance to see me perform live in front of an audience. In fact, for my two boys, it marked the first time that they had ever witnessed one of my live performances!

As we were driving home from the performance, I asked my kids for their views on what they had just heard. My daughter thought that I had played well and my older son concurred. However, my younger son (he plays the percussion instruments – just like his dad!) was silent …. most unusual behavior from him!

Finally, he said the following: “So, you ARE just like your teacher. I see that you HAVE been holding out on me”! The comment was serious and there was not even a hint of humor. I asked him to explain his comment.

He told me that, as much as I had taught him, it was clear that I had left quite a bit of information out of our lessons together, as he heard me play notes and passages that I had never taught to him and ....... he was right!

However, I was not holding out on him. I just wanted to be sure that he was ready for the lessons that would lead to him being able to perform at a higher level. He had determined that the moment had already arrived.

So, guess what we did when we got home and again on the next evening? YES, my son got the lesson on an advanced technique of percussion performance; he practiced quite hard; and he nearly mastered the concept within two days!

No, I didn’t misjudge his ability. I was merely saving the concepts for another time. But, this scenario taught me another lesson: Don’t withhold information from your kids, particularly if it can help them to excel in their various endeavors!

My son, who initially thought that I was holding out on him in a perfect imitation of my admired teacher from college, came to understand that I was only doing what I thought was best. But, as I shared with him, from now on, my best will be to teach him everything!!

Any stories from you on waiting for the “perfect” moment to forward information to your children, only to learn that your kids believed that the moment had arrived much earlier?

Ah, parenting – gotta love it!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Weekends and "Dadhood"

Ah, the weekend is finally here! Of course, before I had kids, my weekends consisted of the following:

1) Staying up really late
2) Watching sports or mindless television shows or movies
3) Spending time with friends
4) Catching up at/with work
5) Reading
6) And just about anything else that I wanted to do!

1) Sleeping in as late as I desired
2) Finish some household chores (if I so desired!)
3) Play basketball or racquetball
4) Relax with friends
5) Go to a movie or concert
6) And just about anything else that I wanted to do!

1) Going to church
2) Taking a nap
3) Working around the house (if I so desired!)
4) Spending time with friends and family
5) Playing basketball, softball, and/or racquetball
6) And just about anything else that I wanted to do!

Now, with three kids in the fold, my weekends consist of the following:

1) Getting home from work right away - fully armed with pizza for everybody!
2) Spending the evening with my kids, usually at home, working on homework, listening to and playing music, playing pool, exercising, etc.
3) Maybe watch a movie with everybody
4) Get to bed at a reasonable hour - certainly no later than 11:00 p.m.

1) Get up early
2) Drive one child 25 miles one way to an Art lesson
3) Take him to lunch and get him home
4) Take another child to his guitar lesson about 10 miles way
5) Get home about 6:00 p.m. and spend some time with the 3rd child
6) Use the evening for family time - books, movie, maybe go out with my kids for a few hours, etc.
7) Get to bed at a reasonable hour - certainly no later than
11:00 p.m.

1) Get up earlier than I used to for church
2) Get the boys' suits ready, shirts ironed, ties straightened
3) Ensure that my daughter is properly dressed and ready to go
4) Take the kids to church
5) Go out for a hearty meal and spend more time together
6) Get home and take a short nap
7) Prepare dinner
8) Spend time with each child on homework, listening to and playing music, pool, etc.
9) Get a few chores done (trash, cleaning, fixing a few things, etc.)
10) Get to bed at a reasonable hour - certainly no later than 11:00 p.m. - after all, work awaits in the morning and ...... I'm really tired!!!!!!!

O.K., for the uninitiated, the BC (Before Children) life might seem to be a whole lot more fun. But, for those experienced in "dadhood", once you get over the shock of not having as much time to yourself as you used to have, there is nothing better than a weekend that is not devoted to you, but to the blessings that you helped to bring into this world!!

Enjoy the weekends dads - after all, you'll have plenty of time for your former life when your kids move out - then you'll wish that your kids would return! In the meantime, spend as much time with your kids as you can, especially on your free days (weekends for me). Your kids need your time and love!

So, how about you? How are your weekends different with your "dadhood" days as opposed to your "BC" days? Write back and let me know!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rules and Limits

Parental rules and limits are made to be broken! Well, whether you agree with that thesis or not, your kids WILL attempt to break, tweak, or otherwise circumvent the limits and rules that you have established for them.

When a child willfully breaks a rule and gets caught, he/she will often attempt to place the onus of guilt on … YOU, as in “YOUR rules are too strict”; “YOU are ruining their lives”; “YOU just don’t understand kids today”; “WHY can’t YOU be cool like the other kids’ parents”? OUCH!!

It is often at those times in which self-guilt and questioning begins to enter the scenario. You might often ask yourself, “Am I too strict?”, “Am I hindering my child’s development?”, or “Is my child right – I’m just not in step with the other parents”? The answers are NO, NO and NO!

At some point in the past, during moments of calmness and devoid of emotional outbursts, the rules were established with love and care to protect your children. As long as you stick to your long-term plan toward helping your child grow into a responsible and successful adult, you will be just fine.

However, when parents change their rules and limits on the fly, while being led toward guilt their by children, the result is that usually the parents end up regretting the changing of their established rules/limits.

Of course, if a parent wishes to revisit his/her rules/limits during future moments of calmness, then go for it, as long as the parent is far removed from the emotions of the moment.

When my daughter was 12-years-old, she asked to go to a school dance. Long ago, it had been established that she would not be able to attend any school dances until the age of 13. Despite her pleadings and the usual attempts to guilt us into changing the rules/limits on the fly, we stuck to our guns and told her that the age for attending school dances is still 13 and to try again next year.

Of course, this brought forth some more pleadings and guilt attempts, but they were for naught, as the established limits/rules were not going to change. I am sure that her friends heard the horror stories about the terrible parents that my daughter had been given (of course, what she does not know, is that several parents called to thank me for the rule, as it allowed them to enforce the rule in their own homes!).

A year later, when she turned 13, she asked to go to her first school dance. She told me that the time of the dance was from 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. I didn’t like the idea of my 13-year-old daughter carousing until 10:00 p.m. on a Friday night, so I told her that she could stay until 9:00 p.m. She begged and pleaded to stay until 10:00 p.m. A long discussion ensued and, since 9:00 p.m. was not an established rule, I cut a deal: I would arrive by 9:00 p.m. She would need to come to the car no later than 9:00 p.m. I would then make a judgment about the final hour at that time.

Well, 9:00 p.m. came and went and no daughter. 9:05 p.m. came and went and no daughter. Finally, at about 9:10 p.m., my daughter made her grand appearance at the car!

I told my daughter to get in the car, as we would be going home. She began to cry, asked for mercy, and begged to stay until 10:00 p.m. I reminded her that she had failed to arrive by 9:00p.m. Since she did not follow the established rules/limits, the party was over for the evening.

Here was the crucial moment: Had I allowed her to stay at the dance after breaking a minor rule, I would have been inviting her to break more rules in the future, perhaps bigger and bigger rules, until her life could have spun out of control. I have seen this happen countless times throughout my career.

Although I felt bad that she had to leave the dance (I really did!!), I had to stick with the rules/limits, so that she would understand that rules/limits are to be taken seriously at all times.

So, despite my own self-imposed guilty feelings, as well as the guilty feelings that were imposed on me by my daughter, we headed home for the evening, armed with the knowledge that my daughter was safe and that she had (hopefully) learned a valuable lesson.

Was she ever late again for anything when a time limit was given? NO! Has she understood that established rules/limits have purpose and meaning? YES! Has she grown up to be a successful young lady with life, career, education plans and a strong work ethic? YES!

How about you? While I know that it is difficult to stick with established rules/limits in times of emotional outbursts, tell me about a time that you stuck to your guns!

As always, remember to take care of your kids 24/7, establish the rules/limits that will keep them safe, and stay with the rules/limits when under fire from your own kids (believe me – those times will come)!!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Slurpees From 7-11

For more years than I care to confess, long before I had children, I often stopped at 7-11 on the way home from work on Friday afternoons for a delicious Coke Slurpee. Ah, the ice-cold taste of the Coke Slurpee was quite relaxing, as it took the edge off of a busy week.

Starting when my daughter was about 9 months old, one of my enjoyable daily tasks was to pick her up on the way home from work. Even when she was quite young, I continued the Friday tradition of the Slurpee run before I picked her up. The Slurpee would not be finished before I arrived at the babysitter’s house, so I still had more to enjoy after I put her in the car.

As you might have guessed, as she got older, she began to get quite curious about dad’s Slurpee every Friday. Eventually, she asked for a taste, and just like her dad, she loved it!

After it became age-appropriate, my stops on Friday afternoons led me to purchase TWO Slurpee drinks, my usual one and one for my favorite daughter. We would then spend the entire ride home enjoying our Friday afternoon treats.

This Friday Slurpee tradition continued for a few years, even after my first son was born. Of course, he eventually became ensnared in the Slurpee game and I was soon purchasing THREE Slurpee drinks after work on every Friday afternoon.

As you might have guessed, after my 2nd son was born, I was soon purchasing FOUR Slurpee drinks every Friday. Is there any better way to end the work week and start the weekend than to enjoy a Slurpee with your kids?

Eventually, as my kids entered school and I no longer picked them up from the babysitter’s house, I stopped arriving with FOUR Slurpees. However, after we were home for a few hours, we often hopped in the car and traveled to … you guessed it, 7-11 for another round of Slurpees!!

Although the Slurpee brigade eventually tailed off as my kids got older, to this day we will often stop at a 7-11 while we are on our way to other places, just so that we can relive the memories that my kids can remember since their very early days. Additionally, sometimes while on my way home, I will call home and ask anybody if they want a Slurpee. Of course, the answers are always affirmative!!

So, what is the lesson as my kids and I continue to enjoy Slurpees? I believe that the answer can be found under the topic of Family Tradition. Kids like to relive childhood memories that were positive, consistent, and brought about some level of bonding with their parents.

It’s the same reason that many adults take vacations at the same destinations that they frequented when they were children; it’s the same reason that many folks feel good when they put on music that their parents played in the house when they were tots; and it’s the same reason that adults like to revisit their old neighborhoods, even after their parents have moved out.

Yes, positive childhood memories, whether it’s friends, family love, the neighborhood, or even Slurpees with dad, are great to live over and over again. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting a taste for a delicious Coke Slurpee!!

How about you? Do you have any memories or activities to share from when your kids were little - the types of memories that are fun to relive over and over again? Thank you!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Kids As Teachers

O.K., when did it actually happen? When did this first take place? Of course, I am talking about the exact moment that my children became the teachers and I became the student!

After all, since their birth, I have been one of their most involved teachers, as I taught them to ride bikes, listen to quality music, appreciate the right things in life, how to clean the garage, how to rake leaves (well, O.K., their skills have dwindled in those last two areas!!), how to eat and drink, how to get rid of the diapers forever, how to drive a car (starting with their toy “Barbie” and “Corvette” cars), and, well, just about everything else that comes to mind.

Yes, as one of their first teachers, I have spent several thousand days as their instructor! But, it was noted that it all recently changed.

For starters, my kids convinced me to get my own iPod, instead of borrowing theirs or getting a new CD player for the car. I had already decided that I would never succumb to purchasing such a highly developed technological device, irrespective of the convenience that it would bring to me! After all, my turntables and 8-Track players still work just fine!

But, shortly after this past Christmas, my kids finally convinced me that it was time for their dad to take the plunge. My daughter even arranged a deal in which it would only cost me $30.00 for a used iPod Classic! Even I had to admit that the deal was too good to pass up!

So, after laying out the cash for the iPod and armed with a bevy of jazz music, classical music, and pastoral sermons on CD’s (yes, I was kidding about the 8-Tracks!), I was all set to place all of them on my iPod. I could already picture the multitude of uses, including listening with extreme ease to anything while driving or running, instead of digging for a CD that had fallen under the driver’s seat! There was only one problem: I had no clue how to put the CD’s on my iPod!

So, my kids, anxious to become my teacher and appearing to enjoy the role way too much, sat down at the computer with me to take me through the steps. The first step, as they explained it, was to create my own Playlist, not so much to help me, but so that my music and sermons would not somehow land on their Playlists (apparently, that would be considered to be highly embarrassing to whippersnappers of today!).

After creating my very own Playlist, they told me to enter a CD in the disc drive. They calmly and methodically took me through the remainder of the steps, including exiting the “Download” screen and entering the “Music” screen, naming each track, listing the artist, the name of the album, and categorizing each CD. Although it took nearly 5 minutes to pour through the naming of each sermon CD, my kids assured me that they are now named forever.

Well, O.K., I can handle that! I told them that I would be fine for the next several hours, as I would not need any help from this point forward. After all, I was the dad and the “Master Teacher” in the family!!!

After my first CD was loaded, named, and transferred to my very own Playlist, they moved to other activities in house, leaving me alone to put several CD’s on my Playlist. Trying to remember the steps, I loaded the CD, named each track, named each artist, categorized each one, and then attempted to transfer them to my iPod. BIG PROBLEM! When I transferred the tracks to my iPod, they were not titled; they had no artists named; and they were not categorized. How could this happen?

Well, I did what any good and conscientious student would do – I called my teachers and asked them to help me! After I calmly and methodically explained the steps that had led to my predicament, all of them exploded into laughter!!!!! Through their laughter, they explained that I had to get out of the “Download” list and into the “Music” list before naming the tracks, artists, category, etc. THEN I could transfer everything into my own Playlist … an embarrassing “Ah-Ha” moment!

I reminded them that I had not laughed at them when they fell off of their bikes, spilled milk all over themselves, etc., so why did they laugh at me? Through their continued laughter, I thought that I heard words like, “You can tell that dad is over 30”, “Well, you always told us to follow instructions exactly as they were given and you did not follow your own advice”, and “Sorry dad, it’s just hilarious”!!

Oh sure, it’s hilarious all right! Apparently, it’s quite funny when the “Teacher” becomes the “Student” and, well, the student misses one important part of the lesson that he used to teach with gusto to his students!

But, it certainly cemented a reminder for all of us: Always listen to your teachers (as my kids have always listened to me - well, mostly!) and do exactly what they say! Leaving out a step in the process can lead to .... iPod frustration and laughter from your former and still-current students turned teachers!!!!!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, September 5, 2009

BIG WORDS for Kids!!

Everybody says “Awwwwww” when they hear a child say such words as “mama” “dada”, “lookee”, “potty”, etc. Yes, while it is certainly cute to hear a little voice say those words, have you ever heard a little child speak with proper grammar, more adult-like English, and proper language inflections? When you hear a child speak like that, the “Awwwwww” becomes “WOW”!!!

Shortly before our first child was born, we decided that all of our upcoming kids would learn to speak properly from the beginning and that we would not allow “baby-like” and “cute” substitutes for words that they would have to discard later upon entering elementary school. After all, what is the point of teaching words that can never be used again after a few years? Why not teach the words that kids will actually use when they get older – all the way into adulthood?

So, when my daughter was born, we continually used “grown-up” language around her. We encouraged her to learn to speak properly when addressing others.

After she became quite conversant with everybody (she could hold complete conversations with adults without utilizing “baby-talk”), I decided that it was time to exponentially expand her vocabulary. Note to wives: This is one lesson as to why you should never leave your husbands alone with the kids!!!!!

At any rate, one day when my daughter and I were alone, I started using BIG WORDS to describe various aspects of life around the house. Of course, she asked me for the meaning of the words, we practiced them, and she began to properly use them in sentences.

One of the first words that we used was “Plethora” (Definition: An excessive amount or number; an abundance). I started talking about the plethora of newspapers in the rack, the plethora of leaves on the trees in the backyard, the plethora of ice cubes that were in the freezer, etc.

My daughter, never one to miss a chance to expand her vocabulary (she was a ham from the beginning!), started going around the house pointing out where a plethora of something either did or did not exist. For example, she said, “There is a plethora of ties in your closet, dad” or “There is not a plethora of trash in the garage”. Very early in the lesson on the word, she had clearly gained an understanding of the use of the word “Plethora”.

These types of informal conversations/lessons continued on an almost daily basis. Again, when speaking to adults, our 18-month-old sounded like she fit right in with her complete sentences, proper grammar, proper use of the language, and, yes, using BIG WORDS that somebody-who-shall-remain-nameless had taught to her!

One day, while attending an extended-family birthday party in the presence of nearly 20 adults, my daughter loudly and gleefully announced, “There is a plethora of birthday gifts on the table”.

Before that moment, I never believed that it was possible for an entire room of adult conversations to instantly come to a close; have all heads turn in one person’s direction; and then have a few folks say things such as, “WOW, did you hear that?”, “She just said, ‘There is a plethora of birthday gifts on the table’”, and “Where did she learn that word?”.

Then somebody, not quite believing what he had just heard, asked my daughter, “What does that word mean”. My daughter, the ham, proudly announced, “It means an overwhelming amount”. The silent room became even more silent!! My daughter beamed from ear-to-ear at her obviously impressive performance and, of course, it encouraged her to learn tons more BIG WORDS in the future.

Today, she and my two sons regularly engage in chatter that is filled with BIG WORDS, proper grammar, and proper use of the English language, as they converse with their friends, teachers, and family members.

Yes, teaching toddlers BIG WORDS might seem to be a little bit pompous. However, it instilled in my kids the notion that words do matter and, when they speak properly with some BIG WORDS, people listen more carefully and with greater attentiveness, as the more intelligent conversation level opens more doors with more people.

Now, can my kids still converse like kids? Oh, yes, they can! How about this for a sample, “Yeah, I know dude, that is really cool, I mean like, you know, it is awesome”. Yes, those types of sentences make dads cringe, but at least they’ve learned to fit in with their peers when they see it as a necessity!

So, yes, teach your kids the BIG WORDS, proper English, proper grammar, don’t accept anything less, and they’ll grow up to be smart, but they’ll still talk like a kid when the need arises!!

Have a remarkably stupendous, phenomenal, overwhelming, breathtaking, and colossal time with your kids!! And, oh yes, be sure to spend a plethora of time with them!!

Paul W. Reeves