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Becoming a Parent: The Learning Curve
When I first saw his morphed head come out, it was more like reality at first sight. I was a father, a dad, daddy, papa and so many other euphemisms for a male parent. About 14.2 seconds later, after the shock settled, I noticed his huge mouth that seemed to stretch from ear to ear. His hands were monstrous, and that is in comparison to other newborns that I've seen in the past. He let out the most pathetic excuse for a cry I had ever heard, but it was perfect. It was his and he was mine. I was in love with a little person that I didn't even know yet. Was he going to be smart, fast, like the sport of high school wrestling? So many questions filled my head at once, but all I could do was hold him close, all wrapped up and tell him over and over again how much I loved him.
Starting Out On The Right Foot
I was green, but not as green as most. I had been helping raise and take care of children since I was a mere teenager. This was much different, though. This child was mine and I was going to make sure that he was well-mannered, respectful and above all, knew that I loved him day in and day out no matter what. I promised myself I'd tell him every single day that I loved him and I've stuck to that promise. Legend, now six years of age, can not look anyone in the face and tell them that for one second he felt that his father didn't love him. Have I had to tell him "no?" Discipline him? Of course I have, and sometimes I've felt as though it hurts me more to do those things, but he always knows why an answer is "no" or why he is being disciplined. When I was growing up it was "no, because I said so." Being intellectual always had me asking questions beyond that which would land me in even more trouble. I made a vow that Legend would always know why things were the way that they were; why plants were green for instance. I didn't point at a fire truck and say "truck." I would make sure that I would describe what type of truck he was looking at by elaborating: "fire truck." It's the little things that we do as parents that our children hold on to.
One Proud Daddy
I know most parents will say this, but I had one intelligent child on my hands and I could tell almost immediately. He always tested his limits and to this day knows exactly what he can get away with depending on the person watching him. This theory of intelligence was confirmed when my son began going to school. He's by no means a savant, but winning the math and English awards as well as being a top speller and reader were difficult to ignore. Having a child that is above the learning curve can make a parent's life a little easier, but I can tell you that this is the furthest thing that I'm proud of my son for. You see, some people are naturally book smart, have common sense or are born with neither of these two things coming easy to them. The thing that I'm most proud of in my son is his loving, caring nature. You can't learn that from a book. I've always taught my son that people are to be respected until they give a good enough reason to turn the other cheek. The proudest days of my life are the ones where a teacher or other faculty member would tell me "Legend was helping the children that were not tall enough to get on the swing at recess," or "Legend stopped an older child from bullying someone that he didn't even know." Those are the types of things that make me feel ten feet tall.
Lead By Example
I can't tell you how many times I've been driving with Legend in the car and someone either cut me off or drove me out of my lane talking on their phone and I lost my temper. It's called "road rage" for a reason. Although I've made those mistakes I always made sure I apologized to my son and told him that I shouldn't act that way; it was uncalled for. Children pay attention to everything. If you're fighting with your spouse/significant other, they'll know. They don't have to hear the actual conversation in order to figure out that you're slamming doors, mumbling under your breath and extremely short-fused. They are extremely in tune with who you are and what is "normal." If you're doing something nice for your significant other, make sure you include the child. Make buying gifts fun interesting for the both of you. Include them when you're cooking a meal, or simply pouring a glass of water. Children learn by doing. This includes making mistakes; lots of mistakes. Encourage them to try, help them when they fail and praise them when they are successful. Being negative will only tell a child that they are not good enough in their developing brains.
Always be quick to apologize if you make a mistake. You're human so the likelihood of that happening are extremely high. There have been plenty of times I've unwittingly accused my son of not telling the truth or pressed him extra hard on answers when I thought he was telling a lie. As soon as I found out that he was being honest I made sure that I told him that I was sorry for not trusting him. Legend learned that apologizing does not get rid of the wrongdoing, but lets others know that you are aware that you made a mistake and are willing to admit it. Telling the truth when he did wrong usually landed him in a little bit of trouble, but lying about doing wrong always warranted a larger penalty.
Teach A Man To Fish
If you teach a child anything, he/she will know how to perform that task. Teach them a task and explain it's importance and the most efficient way to complete it, and you've given them a belt full of tools to use later on in life. So many things boil down to basic principles that we are supposed to learn as children. I was taught not to steal, lie, disrespect my elders and to be happy with what I had. Those principles made me into the man I am today. No one can look at me and call me a thief, a cheat or envious. It just wouldn't make sense if they did. Bring your child(ren) up with the principles that you want them to hold onto forever and you'll be surprised with what they take with them from something as little as a gardening excursion when they were four.
If you are one thing with your child, be consistent. With everything. Children thrive with a schedule and consistent rules. They'll only say "oh no, bedtime already?!" until they realize that the same time every single night signifies lights out. If they know to wash up first thing in the morning, eat breakfast and brush their teeth, then they will be better prepared for the day. Routine tasks end up leaving their brain as chores and become daily regimen. This frees up their growing minds for more important lessons that are learned every single day in various settings. With this being said, don't be afraid to mix it up. Life isn't perfect and curveballs are part of the game. What if they were to wake up one morning and the water lines were broken? Would they be able to wash their faces and brush their teeth? This could be catastrophic, right? Every once in a while you should surprise your children with something in the middle of their routine to throw them off of their game and force them to adjust. This will keep their minds healthy and better prepare them for real world events.