5 Realizations You Come to During Children's Extracurricular Activities

Categories: Parenting

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Photo by Lynda Rouner
This past week my five-year-old daughter completed her first season of soccer. It was her first real extracurricular activity, and something we decided she should do after she started being able to kick a ball over my sister-in-law's house. We found a league highly recommended by a co-worker for kindergartners, and away we went every Wednesday night for three straight months.

As always, I did what I normally do; winged it and hoped I didn't mess it up too bad. In this I was largely successful I guess, but here's a few things to know for parents that are entering the world of activities I wish someone had told me.

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5 Tips for Telling Your Kids a Loved One Has Died

Categories: Parenting

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This past Friday my daughter lost her Paw Paw to a combination of Alzheimer's and heart disease. It's not necessarily her first brush with death. Her daycare had several class pets die and erected a little graveyard called the Garden of the Fallen Tree where they had small funerals. She knows that she's named after a friend of mine and my wife's who passed away a decade ago, but this is the first time that I've had to explain to her that someone she loved was simply not going to be on the planet anymore.

It's one of those defining parent moments, and as usual I muddled through with a combination of improvisation and the fact that a five-year-old is much smarter than me. She seems to accept it well, and as I often do I compile the things I learned from my mistakes and present them to you in hopes you'll do better.

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Doctor Who: The Doctor and I Explain School Shootings to a Five-Year-Old

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Late last Thursday afternoon, I picked up my daughter from elementary school and went through her homework folder like I always do. This is where the school puts important notices for parents, and there happened to be one on that day.

It read, "Dear parents. Tomorrow we will be conducting intruder drills at the school. Please inform your child how important this is."

I'm sure everyone is dutifully horrified by the concept of a person wandering into an elementary school armed with guns and evil intent. That said, the ever-increasing number of shootings that have populated the news in recent years has had me especially worried. It's extra hard to watch coverage of Sandy Hook knowing that your daughter would be entering school from the relative safety of day care in less than a year.

But preparation always increases your chance for survival, so prepare the kid we must. My wife and I sat down with her to try and draw her attention away from Peppa Pig long enough to try and save her life.

We started pretty softly at first. We said that sometimes people came to schools wanting to hurt children, and that tomorrow the school was going to teach her and her friends what to do if that happened. I can honestly say it was not my best moment as a parent because who the hell prepares for the day they have to give a rousing speech on survival in an active shooter situation to three feet of blond curls and Hello Kitty dresses? We're still teaching her to draw her Ps the right way around, and she is apparently supposed to know how to hide from maniacs on the same learning curve.

So I tried this.

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When Parents Say, "How Can You Have a Meaningful Life Without Kids?"

Categories: Parenting

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Photos by Jef With One F
If you've reached a stable adulthood but have not yet had any children, you've probably had people who have ask you when the hell you're going to get off your bottom and shoot your own half-clone into the world. This goes double if you're married. And depending on the tact of the people asking, you might get asked fairly rudely.

"One person even told me that I would wake up sad and alone, hating my life, if I decide not to have kids," said a friend of mine on an informal Facebook poll.

"I've been told it's unnatural for a woman to not want kids and that I should 'get help' for it," said another. "I've been told I'm selfish. I've been guilt-tripped for not giving my dad grandkids before he died."

"No matter what reason I give, people always lecture me about having babies," added a third. "I wish that it was not so socially acceptable to be so intrusive in the lives and decisions of others."

The consensus I get is that a lot of parents simply don't understand how a person's life can have any meaning without reproduction. Well, this weekend I had something of an epiphany on the subject.

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Teaching Your Kid to Read the Final Fantasy X Way

Categories: Gaming, Parenting

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Jef With One F
I recently came home from my first Student Curriculum Meeting at my daughter's elementary school where she's started kindergarten. I'm totally one of those parents that goes to every meeting and follows all the online updates and reads every single progress reports. Partly it's because I want to be that kind of dad, but it's also because I work from home as a writer and that makes you starved for human interactions in Meat World.

Part of the curriculum that they're starting is obviously reading. They do letter sounds, sure, and that's important, but they are also focused on key words.

So each week my daughter comes home with a little mini book that focuses on those words. Last week it was eight pages of things like "I see the apple" and "I see the octopus". The subjects are illustrated so most of the end of the sentences are context clues, but it oesn't take her long to recognize the three easy words.

Which is good because "the" is a really important word and trying to explain it phonetically to a five-year-old is murder.

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5 Questions a Father Is Tired of Being Asked About Having a Daughter

Categories: Parenting

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Photos by Lynda Rouner
In House With One F, EVERY DAY is Halloween Cookie Day.
As a full-time writer who works from home, I am the parent who is tasked with most of the errands, and because I have a five-year-old girl, she's usually out and about with me on those errands. Partly because I enjoy the company and partly because I'm pretty sure if I left her alone, she'd discover several new species of explosions.

The problem is that I'm a dude, and dudes aren't supposed to be good with kids. Especially not little girls. This often leads to ill-informed, baffled questions. Today I'd like to lay out the ones that really need to be stuffed back into the mouths of ijits and sealed with duct tape.

Where's Your Wife?
This isn't friends I may meet who might legitimately wonder where my wife is. Most of my friends live in the computer anyway and would be baffled by seeing me larger than a Facebook profile pic.

No, this question is always accompanied by two things. The first is a rather dramatic look 'round that implies I've wandered away from the main caregiver and might need leading gently back before I accidentally buy a colander instead of shoes for the kid. The second is a tone of concern, as if the only explanation for me having a little girl on my own is that her poor mother took ill with a fever and sadly passed from the world. For maximum return, pretend this takes place in the Antebellum South.

The answer is that my wife is wherever she happens to be. Probably either saving babies in the NICU or resting from that labor.


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Thank God My Daughter's Class Isn't Just Full of White People

Categories: Parenting

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Photos by Lynda Rouner
As my daughter and I were walking to her third day of kindergarten I had a really proud moment as a parent. Amid the endless monologue being constantly recited came this exchange.

"Saanvi* and I are really different, but that's OK," she said.

"How are you different?" I asked, expecting the answer to revolve around her tablemate's Indian heritage.

"She doesn't have an electric toothbrush," replied the kid with the utmost sincerity.

That's the sort of thing that makes you really glad you live in a city as diverse as Houston is, and the benefits of exposing a child to people outside their own race as often as possible. My daughter's class has the widest ethnic range I've ever seen. Pretty much the entire list of options on the census card are represented.

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Leaving a Good Daycare Is Like Losing a Third Parent

Categories: Parenting

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Jef With One F
My daughter starts kindergarten on Monday, and while I was pretty adequately prepared for marching my baby girl off into the jaws of the public school system armed with a Frozen backpack, a sandwich, and Star Wars shoes that make lightsaber noises, I wasn't quite as ready to deal with the fact that our family kind of lost a member when she left her daycare.

In many ways, it was like breaking up with someone.

We knew we were going to have to use daycare from the moment we got pregnant. America still languishes behind the rest of the developed world in allowing women much paid time off for early childhood, and paternity leave? Don't make me laugh. That was how I used my "vacation" days the year my daughter was born (The previous year I got to use them while evacuated from Hurricane Ike, so yes, this is my pissy dig at capitalism).

So we went on the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website and started looking through the licensed providers in various settings. That's how we met Pily, the woman who would for all intents and purposes be the third parent in our family from the time The Kid With One F was eight weeks old to just after she turned five.

That's a lot of time to spend every day with any kid.

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Is Marriage Still Important or Does It Just Make You Miserable?

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Photo: Prashant Gupta, FX
In FX's "Married" all Nat Faxon wants is his wife and all she wants is to be left alone.
Because of the onslaught of positive reviews, I recently felt compelled to check out FX's summer sitcom Married. The plot, a married couple with children, is something I can most certainly relate to at this point in my life. Both of the show's leads, Nat Faxon and Judy Greer, are fabulous comic actors and deserve their individual days in the sun. Plus, Jenny Slate plays Faxon's wacky gal pal and I would marry/adopt her if she was willing. So I tried it, and it's pretty funny. Enough.

I don't often find sitcoms worth watching past their pilots, but I've already watched a few episodes of this show. As mentioned, the acting is good, the writing is fine, but there's something I don't like about it and it was hard to put my finger on at first. This married couple don't really seem to like each other all that much. They love each other in a Roseanne and Dan Connor kind of way - foibles and all - but unlike that real-feeling married couple, Faxon and Greer don't like each other. I don't understand why they are still married.

As a television sitcom whose focus is dysfunctional married life, FX has tapped into some new territory. But for a married woman with children, this has got me worried. Is this the obligatory path of the married couple; husband always wants sex, wife always has headache, kids are obnoxious, we can't afford the luxuries we really want. Can marriage be chalked up to just those things, and if so, why is anyone still getting married?

There are about a million research studies about the state of marriage and coupledom, many contradictory to another. Marriage makes you live longer, makes you miserable, married women are happier than single, married women are less happy than single, married men with hot wives are happier, the key to a happy marriage to for the wife to be thinner than her husband (weird), and the list goes on and on.


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Free Stuff to Do With Your Baby This Houston Summer

Categories: Parenting

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Two little yoginis... sort of having fun.
Oh the joys of new mommy-hood! Waking up at an ungodly hour, feeding, praying the baby goes back to sleep long enough to pour yourself a cup of coffee and then after, perhaps, another round of feeding, then a little playtime - maybe you have one of those mat things where stuffed animals dangle in your baby's face, which they attempt to swat away because, yeah, get that freaking monkey out of my grill - and then what?

It's only 9 a.m. and you have eight more hours until it's socially acceptable to have a glass of wine, maybe seven hours. You have ten more hours until you can put the baby back to bed! What are you going to do all day?

I feel you, new moms and dads. And as a new mom of two tykes, I'm not only frantic to find ways to entertain the bros, I also have no interest in double-spending on said entertainment. I've made it my summer mission to take advantage of every free (or really cheap) baby thing possible and I will now share these with you.

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