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