Posts tagged the boy

The Boy in Crisis

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The boy experienced the extreme emotions of the thrill of accomplishment and the agony of big mistakes. Unfortunately, the big mistake happened after the thrill of accomplishment and that’s the foot his school day got off on.

Did I mention this happened over a game? Clash of Clans to be precise.

It all started with a seemingly innocent offer. I told the boy he could check on his village and play for 15 minutes this morning. The nice thing about the game is you don’t need to sit in front of it for hours and hours. A few minutes spent at a time can be sufficient to keep your position in the game moving steadily forward.

He started playing and immediately went on a raid for his Clan. He won the raid easily and earned a bunch of stars for his Clan. This is a status marker within the game and he was rewarded with 50 gems for his efforts. This was his thrill of accomplishment moment.

I headed up to take a shower. Several minutes later, the Wife appeared and said the boy was hysterical because something had happened to his gems. She had brought the iPod, as a safety precaution, and in the background I could hear the wailing and lamentations of the boy.

First, a word about gems in CoC.

Arguably, they are the most precious resource in the game. They can be earned, in small amounts, through completing different achievements in the game. They can also be purchased via actual money on a credit card. The game is a timer based game. Everything takes time to be built and upgraded. Gems allow the timers to be shortcut, so if a defensive unit typically takes a day to build, it can be built immediately for some number of gems. Gems also are the only way to get builders, arguably the most important character in the game. The builders are used to create a village and upgrade its parts as a player advances in level. Everyone starts with 2 builders, but another can be had for 500 gems. Having more builders means being able to advance more quickly through the game.

Alright, back to the boy.

My own play had convinced the boy to start working towards getting a 3rd builder. Prior to my participation in the game, he had been spending his gems to complete building projects more quickly. Now, he was saving them for a 3rd builder.

The boy mistakenly traded 150 of his gems for gold this morning. I’m not entirely sure of the sequence, but it was a bungle on his part that cost him all of the bonus gems he’d gotten earlier and then some.

This being a completely unimportant video game and all, the boy was completely inconsolable. His initial reaction was tears. Lots and lots of tears. And screaming too, as well as not a little bit of wailing. There was probably gnashing of teeth. You know, the full gamut.

This crisis occurred 15 minutes before school, which is not nearly enough to to allow the strong emotions associated with such a momentous event to run their course. He was still in tears when I finally loaded them into the car and he was stewing in a nasty fury when he got out of the car to head into the school.

Hoping to try and break his fever, I told him “Your friends won’t be impressed when you get in there. Don’t make things worse by making another mistake that’s more costly than the one you made in a game.”

I’ve been in his shoes before. Both when the trigger was something completely stupid like a video game and when it’s been something far more significant. I’ve had that response of fury at myself for making the mistake. It’s the confusion created as the mind tries to come to grips with the fact that it’s a mistake that cannot be undone. I know the “self-immolation” that goes on as you try to figure out how such a thing could have come to pass. I also know that all the consoling in the world will not convince him that the game is not that important. Simply put, it was important to him and his emotions need to run their course.

Thus, the tact the Wife and I took was to merely to try and contain him and to keep him from doing something he would find even more regrettable. Thankfully, the lass knew better than to try and chip in and she politely kept her distance from her distraught brother. We didn’t try to tell him it was no big deal, though we did try to emphasize it was only a game. For the most part, considering the raging emotions he was dealing with, he allowed better judgement to prevail, the occasional door slam not withstanding.

The temptation to repurchase the gems for him is strong. They are not that expensive (~$5 for 250 if memory serves). But that would undermine the larger lessons available. Being a parent sometimes requires us to fix things. Other times, it requires a life lesson to play out and we can just hope that he learns the right things from it.

Being the Bad Guy

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We had a really nice evening, the kids and I. Putting them to bed was an entirely different matter.

With the lass at dance, the boy only had a couple of things we wanted him to do. One was to study his spelling words. The other was to put aways laundry. Given those two things, he was allowed to play Clash of Clans for awhile. Not all of the laundry was done and it was taking forever to dry the towels. So he put away his clothes that were folded, studied his spelling and then I let him play his game.

He and I discussed different strategies and how we liked to approach different aspects of the game. He liked to completely destroy other villages. I like to raid them for loot so I can afford to upgrade my own village. He likes to attack one way, I like to attack a different way. Mostly, I think he enjoys having the game in common with me as something to share.

We picked up his sister and came home to have a little dinner. The lass helped by getting the silverware and dishes out for dinner and the boy finished playing his game. After dinner, the lass cleaned up while the boy learned how to fold towels. I was able to put the final load of laundry in the dryer.

We played a couple of games and I let them turn on an episode of Scooby Doo on Netflix. While the watched that, I kept tabs on the clothes in the dryer. Things timed out reasonably well with their episode ending and the clothes completed drying right around their bed time. I sent them both upstairs with folded clothes to put away. Then, it was in to bed.

I could hear them yelling at one another from downstairs. The lass screamed at one point and someone either kicked or threw the laundry basket. After the past 2 weeks where every morning we have to listen to them snipe at one another, I’d had enough. I went upstairs and informed them they had both lost game privileges for tomorrow. The boy would not be playing Clash of Clans and the lass would not be allowed on the computer. I informed them I was tired of their inability to control themselves and their mouths and they were going to start paying for it.

That was bad guy, Part 1.

Bad guy, Part 2 was much worse and arrived only a couple minutes later.

After I went back downstairs, my expectation was they would finish putting their clothes away and get into bed without any more incidents. It wasn’t more than a minute later that the screaming and sniping started anew.

I didn’t go flying off the handle, but I was more than a little upset by the time I got back upstairs. To make sure I got their attention, I kicked the laundry basket. I then stated my disbelief at how I could have just punished them both for the exact same behavior they were currently engaging in. I stormed through one room and then the other. I went on for a few minutes and ended with the dire warning “God help you both if you do this tomorrow morning…” By the time I’d finished, both of them were sniffling and trying to hide tears.

On the one hand, I hate doing that. I take no pleasure in the yelling. I take no pleasure in punishing them. Every time I’ve done it, I replay the whole thing in my head wondering if my actions fit their crime. Tonight was no different. I’m still doing it as I write this post.

On the other hand, I firmly believe there are moments where a clear point has to be made. Where a line has to be drawn with florescent marker so they know the time has come that they have to start accounting for their behavior, and change it.

Sometimes, that requires a bad guy.

The Boy’s JBB

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Technically, the boy earned his Junior Black Belt a couple of weeks prior to Friday. Friday was the day he was officially granted the belt, though.

He was rightfully proud of the achievement. Four years of training, patience, and not a little frustration finally culminated in a moment he’d been seeking.

The instructors hold a graduation for all students whom earn a new belt. This particular graduation was “The Junior Black Belt Show” as there were 4 new JBB’s including the boy in addition to all the other graduates. It was a nice chance to showcase to the lower belts what they had to look forward to as well as allowing the JBB’s to shine in front of the lower belt levels. There was a pretty clear contrast in the abilities and I’m sure the instructors were pleased to see it. It’s one thing to tell a kid “stick with it and you’ll get there,” it’s another to actually show them the money, so to speak.

When it was done, the instructors already started planting the seeds for the next level of achievement. They challenged the boy to become a better sparrer as he works his way through the remaining full black belt curriculum.

He’s managed this far. I’ve little doubt he’ll be up for the remainder of the challenge.

Joining the Teeming Clans

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The boy and his friends have become invested in Clash of Clans.  I won’t say it’s the latest mobile game to take the world by storm, but it’s definitely popular.

I’d avoided it myself for my usual reasons- I can’t play video games casually.  It’s basically an addiction thing for me.

I blame the father at karate a couple nights ago.  When it was seemed it was just the kids, I was able to shrug it off.  But seeing him playing it and talking with him about it made it too tempting for me to resist.

The boy was excited to see me playing, for his part.  He’s been full of advice and suggestions ever since.  The only thing that stopped him was going to school.

I’m tempted to say nothing good can come of this.  But we shall see.  Having something silly in common with your kids isn’t a bad thing to have.

April Fools Paranoia

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The lass got April Fools off to a start today when she told the Wife to look at all the birds out in the back yard. The Wife went to look and the lass declared “April Fools!” I think we can let the Wife slide since she was only on cup of coffee number one.

No, it wasn’t exactly epic.

The boy spent the day paranoid. He was certain that anything out of the ordinary was a prank. So when a classmate jumped up and declared that the writers of Minecraft would be deleting the game, he sniffed it out. When we tried to fool him about dinner, he sniffed it out. When we told him there was no Pack committee meeting tonight, he sniffed it out…

Wait. There was no committee meeting tonight. However, we’ve typically had our meetings on the first Tuesday of the month. The boy was hoping a friend would come over for the meeting, and when we told him there was no meeting tonight, but tomorrow night, he decided that we were pulling a fast one on him. Nothing the Wife or I could say would convince him otherwise, so we dropped it. It seemed likely he would figure things out eventually.

Around 7:30, the boy looked around a blurted out “When’s everyone showing up for the meeting?” Apparently, he hadn’t figure it out. Even then we couldn’t convince him there was no meeting.

Suffice it to say, things ended with the boy mad. Now, he was upset there wasn’t an April Fools prank.

Guess there’s no satisfying some kids.

Delusions of Grandeur?

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On the way home from the tournament yesterday, the boy said something that’s stuck with me.

I had witnessed, during the tournament, his sparring opponent was being tended to by the judges and some master belt instructors. The boy was waiting for the match to continue while the adults seemed to be tending to the other kid. I asked the boy what had happened.

He said that his opponent had started crying for some reason. After a pause, he continued “I guess sparring against an apprentice belt must have been pretty stressful.”

I paused for a moment. Without more information, my own guess was the poor kid was overwhelmed by the environment and needed to vent his frustrations. The boy had jumped right to something along the lines of “he was trembling in the awesomeness of my being. LET ALL WHO LOOK ON ME QUAKE IN THEIR UNDERWEAR!”

I actually pointed out that there might be other possibilities. The boy was having none of is though. “Yeah, but I was, like, 4 bet levels above him,” he said in his defense.

I didn’t push any further.

The boy has many moments like this where he greatly overestimates his own capabilities and competence. He has other moments where he fails to recognize that his comparisons that make him look so superior to the person he’s comparing himself to aren’t fair. For instance, with the lass learning addition and subtraction, the boy will often test her by giving her a… multiplication problem. Then, he’ll claim “it’s so easy” to her. All the while, I can remember when he was in tears because he couldn’t remember the answer to the problems he quizzes his sister with.

Most times, I or the Wife will do our level best to give the boy a check on his ego. So far, no matter how many times we’ve done it, he comes up swinging for another round at some point.

More and more, I’m coming to wonder if there’s much point to pushing back against him. As long as he isn’t putting people down, I’m not sure I see the harm anymore. I used to think that his perception of reality was blinkered and often times, like yesterday with his sparring opponent, I still do. But I also think it’s just more of the myopic world view kids his age have. Most of his friends have put on similar displays at one point or another in my presence. I often call their bluff, and they just laugh it off and continue on their way.

In other words, I’m thinking it’s just the age, and the boy is just putting his own peculiar spin on the it.

Listen to Dad

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On the way to a martial arts tournament today, the boy realized we didn’t have any boards for his breaking.  We were well passed any known hardware shops by that point, and certainly beyond “run back home and cut a few up.”  So, I started keeping an eye out for a Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Fortune smiled on us about 10 minutes from our destination.  I pulled off the highway and went into a Home Depot to get some boards for breaking.  I was able to get a 6 foot, 1×10 piece of pine cut up into 10 inch lengths in short order.  We were on our way in less than 10 minutes with plenty of wood to break.

On the way I asked him what he was planning to do for his break.  “A spinning side kick,” he replied distractedly.  He had his nose in another book.  The spinning side kick is his goto break because he knows he can do it.  It happens to be a good break for his level as well, so it all works out.

Then I asked him how many boards he planned on breaking.

“One.”

“Here, take another and break 2 boards,” I told him.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because you already know you can break 1 board with that kick.  There’s no challenge in it for you.  The point of the tournament and martial arts is to challenge yourself.  You like to break with that kick, so change the number of boards.”  I thought that was a pretty thorough case without any wiggle room for argument.

“Do you think I can do it?” he asked.

The thing about board breaking in martial arts is its less about strength and more about technique and courage.  Hit a board off center with everything you’ve got and it won’t break.  Hit a board near the center with good solid form, and it will crack like an egg.  It just takes some nerve to stand up there and perform the break with good technique.  I had no doubt the boy was physically capable of performing this 2 board break.

The bigger question was would he have the courage to actually do it?

I was waiting to compete in my own division when our instructor came up to me and said “Your son just won his breaking competition.  He did a 2-board break with a spin side kick and nailed it on his first try.  It was really good.”  He showed me a picture of the boy just as he’d creamed the two boards.  The boy had hit them dead center and his leg was fully extended through them.  It was a great picture of the break.

After I finished up with my competition, I caught up with the boy.  He was all smiles.  “I guess you can break 2 boards,” I said.

“I guess I’ll have to break 3 next time,” he answered, still smiling.

Math Troubles

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The boy forgot his homework today, so I helped him out by improvising some problems for him.  It was just math work, double digit multplication in fact, so coming up with practice problems was easy.  I’ve already done this sort of thing with him.

As a side note, I’m not sure what to think about how they are teaching him how to solve the problem.  It’s easier to show than describe.  Take 35×41.  They have him solve 4 multiplication problems: 5×1, 5×40, 30×1 and 30×40.  Then those results are added to get the answer to the original problem.

Now, it’s a perfectly valid way to go about it and I suppose the argument is that it’s easier to perform the multiplication on the broken down problem.  I think it makes the addition harder but no one asked me.  Typical.  Plus it takes longer and I don’t think it lends itself to being done in the head- too many numbers to remember.

Regardless, the boy wasn’t overly thrilled with my giving him problems to practice.  So I gave him a few extra just to be nice.  He finished them without anymore comments.  I checked them over and he’d made a bunch of mistakes.  Amusingly enough, it was the addition step that he’d flubbed for each wrong answer.  Does that count as an “I told you so” or was it too obvious?

So the boy came back and asked which ones he’d gotten wrong.  I wouldn’t tell him.  He wasn’t happy about that at all and several minutes later, he turned back to me and said “They’re all right.”

“So you found the wrong ones?” I asked.

“None of them are wrong.  I checked them,” was his reply.

I was speechless.

I knew he had several wrong answers, yet here he was trying to create his own reality in which that wasn’t the case.  Essentially, he was saying I made up his mistakes. 

I was at a loss.  Arguing with him would be futile, because he was going to get defensive and start yelling.  I didn’t want to tell him which ones were wrong because he’s the one that needs the practice.  So how to resolve this little standoff?

More than a little exasperrated, I handed him my phone with a calculator app running and told him to check his answers.  Several minutes later, he’d corrected all his mistakes.  When he was done, I asked him if he’d believe me the next time I told him he had some corrections to make.  He chose to ignore me.

I suspect it won’t be the last time.

Learning How to be Excellent

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A couple of days ago, the boy’s martial arts instructor had a meeting with the parents of students who are up for their black belts. He made a comment that stuck with me: “The enemy of excellence is ‘Good Enough'”. He went on to say that many of the students probably weren’t going to like them very much over the next couple of months.

The boy got his first dose of that treatment today in his class. They were practicing their forms and the instructor told him and several other students that they weren’t putting enough effort into it. They continued practicing, and the instructor continued to ride the students, pointing out mistakes, flaws, missteps. He even made a comment to the effect that he could tell they hadn’t been practicing.

Unlike past instances of this sort, the boy weathered the storm well, but he was upset when he got class. Interestingly, it wasn’t for getting called out the couple times he had been during class. He was upset because he’d made so many mistakes.

That comment coming from him was, frankly, kind of stunning. In past instances, he’d made excuses or directed his anger at the instructors. Sometimes, he’d take it out on the Wife or I. Here and now, though, he was accepting that he hadn’t been good enough. A more sure sign of maturity I cannot think of.

Excellence is achieved not because someone is “awesome” at some task naturally. Rather, excellence is achieved by never stopping trying to improve. The drive for that standard can come so much externally. Ultimately, drive for excellence come from within and never accepting “good enough.” The boy has shown plenty of signs that he gets this when it comes to school. Perhaps now he’ll begin to accept it for other things as well.

The Glove Gremlin

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The boy has been missing a pair of gloves for, well, most of the Winter now.

They are a fingerless glove with his name on them. The Wife actually got 3 pairs of them: one for her, one for the lass and one for the boy. She labeled them all so there would be no arguments about whose was whose.

Labeling them also had the side effect of letting us know who took care of their gloves.

The amusing thing is that, at some point this Winter, each pair of gloves was lost to its owner. The lass lost hers back in January and the Wife found them. The Wife lost hers and I found them, sitting on the bottom of our coat rack. The boy lost his and no one found them.

Until today, when the boy discovered them in his backpack.

“Didn’t I tell you to look there when you first lost them?” the Wife asked.

“Yeah, you did and they weren’t there,” the boy insisted. “I don’t know how they reappeared, but they did.”

“I know what happened…” I started. I looked him straight in the eye and went on “The Glove Gremlins got them. Glove Gremlins are famous for stealing gloves and using them, then returning them to a spot where you’ve already looked. It’s actually a good sign they returned them since it must mean that warmer weather is coming.”

“Huh?” the boy asked.

I continued “Glove Gremlins are close cousins of the Sock Gremlins, who go into drawers and make sure socks are either mismatched or missing their pair. I hate Sock Gremlins…” I trailed off.

“Wait. Are you being serious? Are there really Glove Gremlins?” the boy asked.

At that point I was tempted to do with something like “Alright, you got me. There are no Glove Gremlins, but the Sock Gremlins are their for sure. They leave a fowl odor behind that smells like…” But I didn’t. Instead, I tried to play it straight.

“Are Glove Gremlins real? Do you think I would make something like that up? Who would come up with something so ridiculous as Glove Gremlins?” I asked.

“You would,” he replied as we turned and walked away.

Oh well, guess he knows me well enough by now. But I had him going there, for just a moment.

Ticklish

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I think one of the boy’s favorite moments of the day are the few moments when we tell him “Goodnight” prior to bed. During this time, we get a chance to torture him a bit with the threat of tickling.

To say the boy is “ticklish” probably doesn’t do the word justice. The mere thought of being tickled is enough to tickle him. Looking at him the right way can be enough to tickle him. Even mentioning the word can cause him to start involuntarily squirming.

Naturally, we try exploit these traits to the fullest extent we can.

Personally, I’ve found that the threat of being tickled is more entertaining than actually tickling him. The anticipation of being tickled can become almost unbearable for him at that point. He will jerk at the slightest movement by the Wife or I, grab at an arm or hand to fend it off before the tickle attack begins. He giggles constantly, closing his eyes and then squinting them open to see where the attack might come from.

Of course, in order to make the threat viable, he has to be tickled occasionally. We actually have to be careful at that point because he can flail so wildly and react so strongly, it wouldn’t be out of the question to catch a shot to the head. Usually, the Wife or I will use our size advantage to squelch his flailing a bit to keep things safer.

I have no real point to his post. It’s mainly just an observation I thought worth noting. One of those traits of childhood that might otherwise be lost to time as he grows up.

Hockey Season is Over

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The season ended at opposite ends of the spectrum for the boy and the lass where hockey is concerned. Where as a couple of seasons ago, the boy was ready to say “Goodbye” to hockey and never play it again, he’ll be looking forward to next season for the remainder of the off season. The lass, on the other hand, is glad to be done with it for now.

The lass’ ended a tough league season with two straight playoff losses. This despite the lass’ best efforts through both games. Unfortunately, they just didn’t have the horses this season to get much done.

The boy’s season ended on the highest of notes, with his team hoisting the league championship trophy. The won a close 1-0 contest yesterday, as I noted earlier, and then won in a blowout in the championship game today, 8-1. The boy didn’t score any goals today, but he got a different kind of reward. The coaches had him sub in on the A-line when, once again, one of the A-line players had to leave the game early today. It was a nice vote of confidence for him at the end of a season where he really started to come into his own with hockey. He’s not a star player at this point, but he established himself as a quality player that the coaches relied on to help win games and get good effort and quality minutes from for the 2nd half of the season.

If he ever decides to really take the game seriously, there’s no telling how far he could go.

For the record, I also note that when the teams were assigned back at the beginning of the year, the boy was convinced they would be the worst team. He didn’t recognize any of the players names and all the good players he did know were on other teams. Just like a 4th grader to declare that he knows how everything was going to turn out without even playing the game. One of the nice things about his team’s success is he can never again play the “I never win at anything” self-pity card. There’s no telling where his sports will take him or how far he’ll choose to go, but winning a championship at any level is a special thing. Most importantly because once it’s won, it can’t be taken away.

A 6 Day Weekend

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The lass has been sleeping on top of her covers (and backwards) now for a couple months. Can you guess why?

So we got the call early this morning around 5AM that school was cancelled. The boy woke up when he heard the phone and turned off his alarm. The lass, sleeping reversed on her bed and on top of her covers, was oblivious to everything. I shut her alarm off for her.

This particular weekend was already scheduled to be a long one. They have both Monday and Tuesday of next week off for a Winter break. I’ll be making up some extra homework for them to work on so they don’t go completely stale. I find it remarkable that after 4 years of school with the two of them, neither has had any weekend homework assignments. I don’t get that.

Aside from a few more chores, today’s main accomplishment was shoveling the deck. After the bulk of the snow came down yesterday, we got some freezing rain late in the night into the morning. I hadn’t shoveled the deck yesterday and there was pre-existing snow from some of the previous storms. All told, there was about 16 to 18 inches of wet snow sitting on the deck, which was more weight than I thought was prudent. It took me a couple hours to ease the burden significantly.

Oh, and we’re supposed to get more snow tomorrow.

The kids got to watch a little more Olympic action tonight, watching the woman’s skeleton. They asked what the “skeleton” was and I said it’s basically sledding on your belly down a sheet of ice. The cheered on the two American competitors and were bummed out when the one was bumped out of the medals, and then bummed a bit when the other was bumped from gold to silver. But they got to see her excited reaction, so it all worked out.

So now we prepare for a weekend of hockey and martial arts. The boy has a technical review for his junior black belt this weekend, as well as his hockey game on Sunday. He won’t be at practice tomorrow. The lass, on the other hand, will be attending all of her hockey.

Of everyone, the storm hit the Wife the hardest. She was on a business trip and was supposed to return yesterday. The storm blew that out of the water and after jumping through hoops to rearrange things, she was supposed to be home earlier this evening. That too got blown out of the water because another storm delayed her flight from taking off and she missed her connector. She’s now waiting for her flight to take off in another hour or so and she’ll be home some time after midnight. But, she’ll be home and that’s the main thing.

As for my my opening question for this post, the reason the lass sleeps on top of her covers is that way she doesn’t have to make her bed in the morning. She stopped sleeping under the covers the after we cleaned her sheets and she’d remade her bed. She hates it that much.

Something Amiss

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While the boy was getting ready for school this morning, he happened to glance at the thermometer and saw that the outdoor temperature was 3 degrees. His reaction?

“YES! No outside recess today!”

My reaction, “Huh?” I was only halfway through my first cup of coffee, so I wasn’t sure what I was hearing.

“If the temperature is less than 20 degrees, we don’t have outside recess,” he explained.

So, I’d heard right. The boy didn’t want to have recess. That seemed, completely wrong.

He went on to explain that the 4th grade boys had gotten in trouble because of the actions of a few. Apparently, “the few” were throwing snowballs. Not at anyone, mind you (and the boy says he wasn’t involved), just throwing them out into a field. The teachers then yelled at the boys, rounded up everyone (including some 3rd graders whom the teachers told “Blame the 4th graders, it’s their fault”) and cut the recess period short.

This isn’t the first time the boys in his grade have been singled out for this kind of treatment under seemingly flimsy or even dubious circumstances. There have been other lunch related incidents where, in the Wife’s and my judgment, it was merely the action of 4th-grade boys being 4th-grade boys.

That’s not to say that 4th-grade boys are cherubs or entirely without fault. I’m well aware that I’m getting 1 side of the equation here.

Recess was, quite possibly, my favorite thing about elementary school. That was the one chance during the day to run around and be basically free of the classroom until I got home. I can’t imagine it not being a favored time for any 4th grade boy. And yet, here’s the boy saying just that. For the moment, he’s more worried about getting in trouble at recess than having fun.

I’ve read often about this notion of “a war one boys” but I’ve often dismissed as a result of oversensitive political types trying to whip-up partisan frenzy. But some of the things the boy has had to deal with this year in how teachers and his school have dealt with disciplinary items bring the notion a lot closer to home. The simple fact is, I’m starting to not trust the school’s judgment where these things are concerned.

And that’s a problem. How it gets resolved remains to be seen.

The Boy’s Super Sunday

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A little over a week ago, the boy scored his first hockey goal of the season.

This past Sunday, he scored 2 more and helped lead his team to a victory over the other top team in his league.

The first goal was the more pedestrian of the two, but demonstrated some of his growing understanding of how to play offense. He camped out in front of the goal and a teammate fed him a pass. The boy finished the play from there.

The second one, the boy created all on his own.

There was a scrum at center ice, with a bunch of players poking at the puck. This happens a lot in these games. Typically, the teams as a whole are smart enough to figure leave a few players out in case the puck squirts out unfavorably.

In this case, the boy was on the outskirts of the scrum. Occasionally, he’d half-heartedly poke his stick into the scrum. To my eye, it initially looked like he was loafing. Instead, he was waiting for an opportunity or, more correctly, trying to create one.

A few seconds later, he had it. He’d reached in a poked the puck out and towards the opponents goal and he was able to pounce on it before anyone else could react. He got to the puck first a punched it ahead into the offensive zone, splitting a couple of defenders. At that point, there were 3 players who had a chance to get to the puck, to opposing players and the boy.

That’s when the boy hit a gear I hadn’t seen from him before. I was situated behind the goal and could see the three of them racing for the puck. The boy simply powered ahead of the two defenders and caught up to the puck at full speed half-way into the offensive zone. At that point, it was him and the goalie with no chance for anyone to catch him. He steered the puck towards the center of the goal, coasted in close, and then lifted the puck into the left-side of the net, cleanly beating the goalie’s glove hand.

That score pushed his team to a 4-2 lead with half of the third left to play. While no lead is necessarily safe in hockey at this level, this one was and proved to be the final score.

Aside from his goals, I’d still say it was his best game of the season. He was more assertive than I’d seen him before. When he was on the ice, he was constantly flying to the puck, especially putting pressure on opposing players with the puck. When they were in the offensive zone and a teammate had the puck, he worked to get open for a pass and frequently went to the front of the net. He was clearly playing with confidence and a purpose, like he finally understood what to do, where to be and when to get there.

When the game ended, I congratulated him on his goals, particularly his break away. But I also to time to emphasize that he played well all around, hustling around the ice and skating hard every moment he was out there. At this point, he seems to be getting better with each game. I don’t know if he can keep it up, but if he does he’ll be a real asset to his team when the playoffs come up in a couple weeks.

The Difference Food Makes

1

The boy and I were killing time while the lass was at her dance class. He was reading and I was checking some thing on the web when I offered to work with him on his math. He’d asked me if we could practice it some more this morning. I think he’s getting bored with the current math curriculum at school.

I’d been helping him learn how to do long division as well as perform multi-digit multiplication. The nice thing about these two are the reinforcing nature of their operation. In order to multiply multi-digit numbers, he has to know his single digit multiplication cold, plus he get practice with addition. Same thing for division, which covers the other 2 operations.

The experience working with him was most unpleasant.

He griped about the problems. He was constantly looking for short-circuit answers rather than practicing the algorithms for performing the multiplication or division. He snapped at me. He kept making simple mistakes with his multiplication and addition. He kept forgetting the steps to take.

The Wife called while we were doing this stuff and she almost hung-up on him.

Mercifully, the time arrived for us to go get his sister. So I told him we’d try again after dinner.

When that time arrived, the difference was amazing. No grumpiness or moodiness. He remembered how to perform the operations. When he made a mistake, he took the correction constructively and without complaint. The simple math errors were gone and the only mistakes he made were process ones. And even those were associated with the curve ball problems I gave him, which I wouldn’t have bothered with earlier. In fact, I was actively trying to simplify things earlier, whereas now I felt I could increase the challenge a bit for him.

It still amazes me the difference a little food can make with them.

That’s About Right

3

We arrived at the rink today for the boy’s game and the Wife wanted to know if he could hear her when she cheered him on. He gently informed her that he could not, which I think was a relief for the Wife since she now didn’t feel the need to scream herself hoarse since he couldn’t hear anyway.

He went on to say that he could; however, hear me.

So as we walked in, I asked him if he actually hears me and listens to what I’m saying or if he just kind of thinks “There goes Dad again…”

He turned to look at me and said with a grin “Yeah, it’s more like that.”

I may have to get more creative with my yelling.

A Lesson in Hustle

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Neither the Wife nor I have ever tried to force the kids to do sports they don’t like. The furthest we’ve pushed them is to complete seasons. We take the approach that if they sign on to something, they need to see it through. If they really didn’t like it, they don’t have to sign up for the next year.

The one thing the Wife and I both stress is effort. We want them both to give their best effort when they are out there. Where hockey is concerned, it’s pretty easy to tell when they are doing that.

This past weekend was the first time where they both gave the kind of effort we’d like to see from them all the time. The lass was rewarded with a breakaway goal in her game. It was well earned for her. She’d skated hard the whole game and was really good with her positioning. Rather than crowding her teammates when they had the puck, she’d position herself in front of the goal in hopes of a pass. She was close a bunch of times. Her breakaway was well earned.

The boy’s reward was less tangible, and I had to explain it to him afterwards.

First, it was obvious he was tired by the end of the game. He was taking breaks when he could get away with it and during faceoffs, he would hunch way over and rest his elbows on his knees. His line was shorthanded and playing 4-on-4 on full-length ice will sap the energy out of the youngest legs.

The game was tied going into the final 2 shifts. The boy’s line started with 3 minutes to go and they had their back against the wall the whole 1:30 they were on the ice. They played in their defensive zone pretty much the entire time. With about 10 seconds to go on their shift, the puck squirted out from the corner across the goal mouth where an opposing player picked it up and skated across the goal mouth, with only the goalie in front of him.

I was sure it was going to be a goal.

I was so sure, I didn’t notice the boy had been busy chasing him down. The player was taking his time for the shot and it ended up being a moment too long. The boy caught up to him and from the backside, stripped the puck and flicked it into the corner. A few seconds later, the buzzer sounded ending their shift and they’d escaped. His team’s final shift went out and scored a game winning goal with a minute left.

The boy wasn’t aware of how his hustle had paid off until after I’d explained to him how it looked. I’d witnessed the whole thing from right behind the net. He still tries to count things in terms of assists and goals. Hustle plays like the one he’d perpetrated he just doesn’t pay attention to.

I was happy to let him know about it though.

Learning to Deal

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“Dad, did you ever play on uneven teams? Is that something that happens all the time?”

In typical the boy fashion, he posed a question completely out of left-field. No segue to speak of, no hint it was coming. Not that this was a subject that I have difficult dealing with. It would just be nice to have a heads up for once.

So the deal is they were playing Capture the Flag. When the teams got formed, all the fast, athletic boys were on one team while the boy’s team had a couple of girls and other less athletic boys. Frankly, it was a fairly classic situation on school playgrounds around the country that I’m sure has been happening ever since the first recess was held at a school. In this particular case, the other team formed because they are a group of boys that hang together a lot and they basically just declared themselves all on a team.

The problem came up because the boy put up a stink. He started arguing with the players on the other team and he ultimately ended up calling them “big, fat, sore losers” which, in my book, rates about a 2 on the insult scale. But, it’s a new generation and apparently that’s pretty serious stuff. I’m also not quite sure the other team was the “sore loser” in this instance, but I’ll ignore that.

So the games were played and ultimately the incident was resolved when a couple of the offended boys told their teacher about the incident and the boy apologized.

So what was the boy after? I think mainly, he wanted some kind of affirmation that he was in the right. He wanted to know that he’d been correct to confront the other team like that. But, I also think he suspected he could have handled it better.

One obvious angle was him losing his temper and calling them names. But that was easy and even he understood he shouldn’t have done that. Another possible angle was sportsmanship. Yet another possibility was to remind him the best way to deal with people you think are cheating is to just beat them.

He’s heard all that before, though. So I wanted to come up with a different angle.

I asked him if, if he complains about all the “best players” being on the other team, how does he think that makes the players on his team feel? By arguing so hard about the unfairness of the teams, he was basically saying the players he had on his team were worthless. I went on to try and explain that to be a leader and to try and get the most out of teammates, he couldn’t start by insinuating they were worthless.

He was quiet for a bit.

Which was a good thing, because I knew that meant he was thinking about what I’d said. At that point, it was the best I could hope for.

Maybe Laughter is the Best Course

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Today, it was silverware that got the boy’s temper to flare. Certainly, spoons and forks can be difficult. Having to pick them up with your fingers and then manipulate them to put food in your mouth can be pretty tedious stuff. Then doing it over and over again until a meal is complete is just asking for trouble.

Just ask the boy.

He was already a bit sour, likely for a couple of reasons. First, he’d just completed a hockey game, so he was low on energy. Low-energy is always good for weakening the coping mechanisms when things start going bad. He was also upset because his dinner didn’t taste exactly like he expected it to.

So when he dropped his fork on the floor, it was a perfectly reasonable response for him to scream at it and then start stomping around. He eventually picked it up, marched to the sink and slammed the fork into the sink. He certainly taught that fork a lesson. He grabbed another fork out of the drawer and went back to his seat.

Several seconds later, the familiar clatter of silverware hitting the floor rang out. The boy was even more infuriated this time. Once was bad enough, but having it happen a second time seemed to be almost unbearable. He repeated his antics and when he sat down, he put a scowl on his face that could have curdled milk.

And that was when I laughed.

I couldn’t help myself. He was sitting there with a mouthful of food. His face was hovering only a few inches above the plate. He had a death-grip on the fork. His brow was furrowed and he chewed angrily. Frankly, I wouldn’t have believed it possible to “chew angrily” until I saw that face. So I laughed.

My first thought when I did it was it would upset him even further. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the boy wasn’t without a sense of self-awareness though. He saw me laughing and his scowl actually turned into a smile. He tried to look away at that point, but it was too late. Apparently, some part of him realized he’d gone overboard a bit and was now correcting.

Even better, that was it. His rage disappeared and he completed the rest of his meal without incident. I guess once you’ve laughed at yourself, it’s impossible to keep up the pretense of anger at the world. Or silverware.

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