An Unexpected Conversation

I was waiting for Momma S to get M down for the night and playing some games of tic-tac-toe with K.  I took a break to get a glass of water and when I came back into the living room K hit me with:

– I don’t want you to get dead.

– (stunned silence) What?

– I don’t want you to get old or hurt and be dead.

I immediately pulled K into a huge bear hug and whispered into his ear that I am right here and not going anywhere.  I asked where is this coming from?  Did you talk about something in preschool?

– No.  I just don’t want somebody to hurt you or for you to get old and be dead.

– I don’t think anybody is going to hurt me; but as for getting old…that just sorta happens.  You can’t stop it.

– But your old and if you keep getting old you will be dead.

– Yes.  At some point I will be dead, but not now and not anytime soon.  But getting old is part of life.  How old were you last year?

– 3

– And how old are you now?

– 4

– And how old will you be after your next birthday?

-5

– See, you are always getting older and the same thing is happening to me.  Every year I get older and some day, when I am really old, I will die.

– Can’t you just stop having your birthday?  That way you don’t get older.

I guess that was the end of the conversation.  As I brought out a humorous retort at how some people try to stop celebrating their birthdays but keep getting older, he cut me off by shoving a book at me and demanding that I read it to him.  But in all honesty, I was really touched by this moment.  K and I have our ups and downs and Momma S is the icing on this family cake, so for him to share this with me was something unexpected and extra special.  I love K so much, and that giant bear huge I gave him after he informed me that he did not want me to be dead was the high point of my day.

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The Long Silence

Blogging is a hobby that becomes an expectation.  I began this blog to help me cope with the adjustment to stay-at-home fatherhood as I relocated to Sweden with my family.  It was a way to connect to the greater world, to remain active while staying home.  From there, I developed a relationship with a few other bloggers, I would read their posts and they would read mine.  Connections were made, regardless of how fleeting.  Soon, I found myself looking at everything I did through a blogging lens where everything was treated as a blog post.  How could I share what M just did in a way that could really capture the humor of what he did?  More to the point, how can I tell a version of what he just did that would be funny to others?  As I don’t show pictures of my family where their faces can be seen, suddenly there was a prolification of photos in my iPhoto’s album with the back of my boys heads.  And over the first year I tried to capture all that I could and share it with you.  I worked hard to meet your, and my own, expectation that I would actually tell these stories.

Then, it stopped.  The connection ended and the attempt to cast everything in a humorous manner became a burden of time I could no longer afford.  For those of you that regularly visited this blog to read about these misadventures of parenting abroad I apologize.  But, life happened, which it tends to do to most of us.  I went through another transition, one from being a hemmapappa to being employed full-time in a new and challenging career field.  On top of the new job, I also enrolled into an on-line program to acquire a more complete education in this new field; and with all of that, and working to remain a caring father and a loving husband, I stopped updating this blog. 

The funny thing about stopping the blog is that I never stopped using my newly acquired blogging lens.  Every trip or experience I have had with my family, I have mentally examined how I could write that up for this blog.  The number of photos with just the back of M or K’s head has remained at the same level.  Even my wife has commented now and then that I should really write up a particular experience for this site.  So now, I have a huge backlog of experience to document for you…or perhaps just for me.  Cause it is hard to say how these virtual connections work and whose expectation I am meeting.  Is this a blog for a regular readership, just the occasional visitor, or just myself?  Who is my audience?  As I look back at my posts, I see that infused throughout these stories of parenting abroad is a focus on what to do when in Sweden, and more specifically Almhult.  That really limits my audience; but a few weeks ago, I received a notice from a reader who found this site and told me that they found it very useful for them as they were preparing to make the move to IKEA land.  And it is for those readers, who are looking for some help in adjusting to this part of our small world, especially with children, that I need to update this site with all of the funny little antics that this nomadic family has experienced over the past year.  So, with out committing to anything and setting up no expectations, I hope to return to this venue of story-telling and share more of what has happened to family nomadic over the past year.

Back to the Grind

Following a year of being a stay-at-home dad, I am now back working full-time.  And while I am definitely enjoying being back to work, there are a few notable things that I am missing.  They are, in no particular order:

Morning nap time…ah yes, it is 8am and time for M to go back to sleep for two hours.  Such a pleasant way to restart the day, a nice morning siesta on the couch for daddy.

Mid-day grocery shopping…just M and I rolling down the aisles of ICA Maxi and being able to checkout without waiting for the post-work lines to slowly wind their way through the check-out.

Shadows walking in the forest.

Shadows walking in the forest.

Leisurely Strolls through the Forest…anytime, any day, M on the back and daddy hiking though the wonderful forest of Almhult.

 

 

 

 

K watching the diggers at work.

K watching the diggers at work.

Construction Watching…pick up K from preschool and go spend the next one to two hours visiting all of the construction sites around town, talking about the big vehicles, and just chillin out together; daddy and his two boys.

 

 

 

 

Cooking for Mommy

Cooking for Mommy

Having dinner ready for when Mommy comes home…yeah, its just good to earn some extra brownie points from my wife by having something yummy waiting for her when she got home after a long day.

 

 

 

“Hey, you’re that guy with the kid on his back!”…I think I became a regular townie standout as I strolled up and down the single main strip with M strapped to my back.

Train Spotting with K

Train Spotting with K

Train Spotting…M and I would pick up K and instead of checking out construction sites, we would go to the train station to watch the trains go by and the commuters go back and forth.

 

 

 

Parential Gossip…catching up with all of the other stay-at-home parents when they were dropping off or picking up their kids from preschool.

Swedish Classes…I was actually making some progress in my language acquisition, which has all evaporated since I started working.

Blogging…on those few nap times each week where I didn’t nap, I was able to keep this blog updated.  Not so much any more.

Afternoon nap…yep, for a while there I was able to take both a morning and afternoon nap. (Though don’t tell my wife I typically tried to make it sound like I did something more productive than sleep all the time.)

The boys and I at the park.

The boys and I at the park.

Time with M&K…it was really special to have some wonderful extra time to get to know my boys and for them to know me.  I think we really firmed up a strong relationship.

 

 

I am sure there are more things that I will miss, but these are a few of them now.

Blogging: It’s been a while.

For those dedicated readers out there…(maybe there are a few)…I have not posted in some time.  I started this blog as a means to fill the spare hours of my day as I was learning to be a stay-at-home father.  And during all those wonderful nap times, I had some solid moments to sit quietly with my laptop and relay events from my day.

Then I started getting a little antsy as the long, cold, winter days pulled me into a funk.  To address this, I began taking Swedish classes and enrolled M part-time into dagis.  It worked out quite well.  I was having more adult contact (very important for a stay-at-home parent) and M was getting much more socialization and Swedish language immersion than I could provide.  We both were happy…and K now was able to stay at this pre-school for the full day, which made him immensely happy.  All were winners, but my time for this blog began to sag.

Follow this with an opportunity to start working full-time in May, and my attention to this blog jumped out the window.  And while I feel I should say how hard it has been to leave M at dagis all day and that I am really not doing justice to my family by leaving and working again; I honestly am very glad to be working.  And while that position was just filling in for someone for two months, it has turned into a full-time job starting in August, which I (and my whole family) am very excited about.

I sincerely and truly enjoyed the months that I had with M.  Watching him grow, being with him the way I was, has definitely strengthened the bond that we share.  I do not regret any part of the experience and am very grateful to have had the opportunity to spend so much time with him.  At the same time, I have no regrets of returning to work, even if earlier than planned.  I find real enjoyment in the work that I do and that enjoyment carries over to my home life.  And while I enjoyed being a stay-at-home father, i did feel that there was something still missing for me.  Though my new career is different from what I was doing previously in Burma, I am still helping others, fostering growth and understanding, and working to make the world a better place.

But with everything, there is a balance.  I will continue to be a great father to my two sons, an excellent educator for those that I work with, and an ever loving husband to the most phenomenal wife…but it might just mean that there may be a bit less activity on this blog site. I trust you understand, and thank you for still reading.

The Big Rottweiler at Home: Family vs. Friends

English: Rottweiler Head Deutsch: Rottweiler Kopf

English: Rottweiler Head Deutsch: Rottweiler Kopf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In an earlier post, “Where are all the Vickys”, I shared some of the challenges faced here in Sweden regarding making friends.  In essence, I explained that the quiet, reserved, and okay with the status quo cultural traits of the Swede makes if quite difficult to start a friendship.  Well, having been here a bit longer, things have improved and my family and I have the starting of a few very nice friendships…we hope.  We have come to realize that an even larger barrier to making friends is family.

This is something that we felt before while in Burma, and something that we have seen portrayed in television and movies as well.  And while this is not the rule, there does seem to be a general trend to follow the Hierarchy of Friends:

  • At the base of the pyramid you are single and have a diverse array of numerous friends,
  • At the middle stage you are married and tend to only have other couple friends…slowly losing your single friends,
  • At the top you are married with children and tend to only have couple friends with children, especially children of the same age and ideally energy level.

Again, we have many excellent exceptions to this hierarchy, but we do see the trend at work, especially now that we are immersed into a new culture and nation.  Going beyond this pyramid, we also have K to factor in.  K is our oldest boy.  He is nearly 3 ½ years old and is big.  He is big and aggressive.  He is big, aggressive, and easily over-stimulated.  I sometimes think of having K is like having a big Rottweiler.  The Rottweiler, more often than not, is just a big sweetie with a huge heart; but they at times don’t quite realize just how big they are and can accidentally break something or hurt someone.

K is a bit like that.  For the most part he is an incredible sweet and empathetic little boy.  But there have been moments where he gets carried away and is this big Rottweiler playing very roughly with a much smaller dog.  When we first arrived in Sweden, we met this very nice English chap who invited us over to his home for dinner.  He had an 18-month old little girl and his wife was pregnant with their second.  Things went very well, we started outside in the garden with some drinks, K and his daughter played well enough, and then we moved inside for dinner and things continued to go well.  K was having fun exploring the little girl’s toys and all was good.  So a few weeks later, we invite them over to our house to return the favor, really hoping to build a friendship.  Now, things were a bit different.  Being on his home turf, K was a bit more comfortable and consequentially not on his best behavior.  He also missed his nap, which I am sure did not help the situation.  As the evening progressed, we quickly saw signs that K was getting overly excited, becoming rougher and rougher, and we tried and tried to calm him down; but in the end, he was running through the hall and delivered an NHL quality full body check to this sweet little girl.  And while the parents were very understanding and didn’t seem to hold any resentment for this, the night quickly came to a close and my wife and I have held onto this experience as a lesson learned.  K does not play well with others.

Another night, we were invited over to another “to be friends” house for dinner, who again had a very sweet 18-month old boy.  Things went better than the previous dinner at our house, but at one point in the evening, K had claimed all of this sweet boy’s toys and was barring him from entering his own room.

There is another set of “to be friends” that we have made who have a little girl about seven months older than K and a little boy who is six months older than M.  And even better than having kids near the same age, K and the girl have the same energy level and the parents are cool and laidback…Jackpot!!  Well, we went over to their home and K was wonderful, in fact we had never seem him act so well.  He happily set himself the task of discovering and playing with all of their toys and never got over excited or physical.  Unfortunately, he also didn’t really play with the girl, which only proved to frustrate her, especially as he started playing with her dollhouse.  A bit while later, we had them over to our house.  Here, things did not go as smooth.  K was possessive and quickly got over excited and physically aggressive.  Not good.  We ended up plugging him into a movie just so things would not escalate beyond the tears that had already come.  Again, the mom was very understanding and unphased by this, but my wife and I are very concerned.  How can we really make good friends, if we can’t have anyone over to our house?  Again, I sorta feel like that family with the big scary dog that can’t have people over due to the fear of what might happen.

Most recently, I have been building a friendship with a very cool Swede that I met playing disc golf.  He also has an extraordinarily sweet little girl of about two years.  And he issued the long hoped for, and somewhat dreaded invite to his home for brunch.  My wife and I went back and forth on this invite.  Do we go?  Do we all go, or does someone stay home with K?  We were very nervous about this; we really want to make friends but is our family in a position to be good friends with?

Well, at the very last minute, we decide that we all would go.  And the brunch was wonderful.  Again, K played with all of the little girl’s toys and even later on in the morning, he was playing with her as well.  There were a few moments where I had to ask K to count to twenty and breath to help calm him down; but the morning was actually a huge success.  The Swedish couple seems very nice and they have an incredibly cute little girl too.  But, how do we return the favor?  How do we do our part in showing that we want to be friends and host them at our home, when quite frankly, we are scared about what will happen with K when he is at home?

My wife and I have been trying to research about aggressive behavior, fearing ADHD or something similar; but K is too young to be diagnosed.  We also just read that no one would diagnose him due to two major life-changing events that he is going through.  He has a new baby brother and we moved.  One of the distinguishing characteristics of being a nomadic family is that we are nomadic.  We move, and we move often.  But, this is the first big move we have done since having children.  Within six months, K had gained a new brother and lost his entire environment.  His whole world has shifted and his aggression, possession of toys, and jealous very well could be his way of coping with these changes; which I completely understand, but how do we make new friends during this coping process?

If any of you are also of a nomadic family, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences as well.

Even Klingons Struggle

Worf

In the Star Trek DS9 episode ‘Time’s Orphan’, O’Brian gives Worf and Dax their 18-month-old son to care for while they work out some issues with their older daughter.  The following YouTube clip from the episode says a lot about fatherhood:  Time’s Orphan

One of the pull away quotes:  “I am a Klingon warrior, and a Starfleet officer. I’ve piloted starships through Dominion minefields; I’ve stood in battle against Kelvans twice my size; I courted and won the heart of the magnificent Jadzia Dax. If I can do these things, I can make this child go to sleep!” – Worf

All too often during my time as a father I have found myself uttering to myself, “I can make this child sleep/eat/behave/be quiet/eat correctly/play nicely/poop on the toilet/etc.”  It is at these moments that my relationship to my sons goes from that of a nurturing father to that of a competitor with my son being the adversary.  While this is obviously not the type of relationship I want, I find that it happens more often than I care to admit.

This past week, my 8-month-old son, M, has been having difficulties eating.  I should say that I am having difficulties feeding him.  M is completely content shoveling a few bits of Cheerios, cheese, or bread into his mouth; he just is not getting enough in his mouth for a full feeding, nor is it a balanced meal.  With mom away at work, M’s standard daytime breast-feedings have disappeared too.  Both of these factors makes me feel even greater urgency to see to it that M gets all of the food he needs; “I can make him eat!”  But force-feeding an infant child is not a pretty site.

As the week has progressed, I find myself more and more frustrated with M and deeper into the adversary role.  Luckily, these feelings of frustration and inadequacy only arise during those feedings and are not present constantly, but they still take their toll.  With me older son, K, things were much worse; not with eating, but with sleeping, cue your resident Klingon.  K as an infant refused to go to sleep and K as a toddler refuses to go to sleep.  I remember innumerable nights with K as a baby pacing back and forth across our bedroom a zillion times, making mantra-like guttural noises to help sooth this crying/screaming child to sleep.  He was so clearly tired, why could he not sleep?  As K grew into toddler-hood and his vocab and comprehension grew, I still struggled to communicate why he had to be asleep promptly at 7:30pm…and by 8:45 my explanations often sounded much more like threats than reasonable arguments for the merits of sleep.  To get myself through this, I would do just as Worf did, I would think of all the difficult things that I have done, and tell myself that this child could not beat me, “I can make this child go to sleep!”

But that is just it; no matter how many achievements I have made, how many difficulties I have overcome, nothing has been as challenging as being a father.  It is a job, a duty, and a role that is never ending and always changing.  The father I am today is very different from the father I was three years ago.  And somewhere along the line, I learned that it is not a competition, but that we are in this together.  Of course K needs to sleep, it is not for me to force him to sleep it is for me to assist him in finding ways to help him sleep.  Of course M wants to eat, I can’t healthily force feed him, I need to find ways to assist him and empower him to eat a good balanced meal, even if he only has two teeth and little hand mouth coordination.

As a father, I am their partner and their role model.  And believe me, your children will mirror your own behaviors.  That is why it is important to be the person you want them to be.  If I do not want them to yell or hit when they are angry, I better not do that myself.  If I want them to eat their broccoli, them I better be serving up a good portion for myself too.  Luckily, I have not had to do this alone, and I give big props to any single parent.  My wife has been a great role model, not only for my sons, but for me too.  And together, we help each other out; we help each other be better people that our sons can see as an example.  And hopefully, in a time very near in the future, they both will be eating and sleeping without needing any assistance from us.

At this moment

It’s 3pm.  K is asleep on his bed surrounded by his diggers.  M is asleep on my chest, completely at peace in his daddy’s arms.  The iPad is next to me allowing me to catch up with the world.  It is perfectly peaceful, just the low soothing hum of this old apartment building.

Perhaps it was a good decision to become a stay-at-home dad.