Herald Journal Columns
Jan. 30, 2006, Herald Journal

On my trip to the bathroom, I learned . . .


At any time, at any place, our children teach us things, help us reach conclusions, or realize revelations, and they don’t even know that they are doing it (most of the time).

This time, the lesson, or I should say renewed revelation, was “brought to me” by my 22-month-old daughter in the bathroom at a basketball game.

My twin brother, Chris, myself, our spouses and children traveled to the “Barn” a couple of weeks ago to watch the Golden Gophers men’s basketball team take on the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers prevailed by two points, but not without a second-half 20-point comeback from the Gophers, who ultimately fell short of a victory, but not without a good fight to the end.

Anyway, since this is not the sports column, I will go on no longer about the game, but to say that it was a night of family entertainment for all of us, including my 22-month-old, Delaney.

There was action-packed entertainment everywhere, with Goldie the Gopher being Delaney’s favorite “player.” She watched him like a hawk, continuously announcing his presence, which was everywhere, and when she couldn’t find him, she, of course, asked, “Where’s Goldie?”

The cheerleaders, trips to the concession stand and bathroom, other fans, the half-time entertainment, which was a children’s unicyclist club, and lastly, the game kept the children and adults entertained until the very end. In fact, our children, clad in maroon and gold and with pom-poms in hand, stood behind our bleacher area and cheered their own rendition of the University of Minnesota school song.

So, it was a fun night had by all. And luckily, we had free tickets, because it is not a form of family entertainment a family could indulge in very often. A bottle of water was $3 – say no more.

A comment my 22-month-old shared during a bathroom run has stuck with me as yet another renewed parent’s revelation. While in the bathroom doing diaper duty with Delaney, the crowd broke out in a loud cheer, and Delaney, who is quite a talker, said, “Daddy and (Uncle) Chris are cheering.”

I just smiled at this egocentric comment as the parental light bulb lit up with the reminder that we, as caregivers for our children, are “their world.” With 10,000 people cheering, my daughter could just “hear” her daddy’s and uncle’s voices, as if there were no one else cheering. To her, there wasn’t anyone else, or else it didn’t matter; it was just her daddy and uncle cheering, never mind all the rest of the people.

That reminder of responsibility that we, as parents and caregivers, have flooded my mind. We have an awesome responsibility to do our best to raise our children to be responsible, caring, loving individuals.

Now, of course, there are other factors and influences that will impact our children and the choices they make, and they are also their own independent individuals with “minds of their own” - even at 22 months old. But it is our responsibility to make sure their physical needs are met, that they have a warm place to sleep, good food to eat, appropriate clothes to wear, to provide them with stability, guidance, support, and a safe environment, and to surround them with unconditional love, no matter what.

We may not always like what our children do or agree with all of the decisions they make, but we need to love them all of the time, and let them know it at all ages. There is a saying that is framed and hanging in my hallway that says, “Children need love the most when they least deserve it.” How true.

In a recent article I read in a children’s magazine, it discussed truths and fallacies in child-rearing and talked about the various things that will impact our children and their choices. It highlighted the point that although a child’s caregiver plays a major role in the decisions children make, children are individuals with decision-making skills.

As caregivers, hopefully, we will equip them with the right tools so they make good positive decisions and choices as they grow. As that may not, or will not, occur 100 percent of the time, hopefully, they will learn from all of their choices, because we will not always be right at their side persuading and teaching them to make positive choices, especially as they grow and become more independent.

And it may be the values that we try and instill that will stick with them the most. For example, in the article, one grown son with nostalgia talked about how when he was a little boy, his father asked him and his other siblings, individually, at bed time, “What is one nice thing you did for someone today?”

And that simple, yet repeated value question stuck with this son to the extent that he asks the same question of his own children today, and he, himself, makes sure he does something nice for someone each day. What a powerful tool.

A hard work ethic, personal happiness, and kindness to others are probably the most important values I would like my children to possess, and that simple question is a wonderful value tool to use on a daily basis – “What is one nice thing you did for someone today?”

And what a nice thought to go to sleep on!

With those thoughts, we do have an awesome responsibility bestowed upon us to raise responsible, caring individuals, because our children will not always be children, but will be adults, making decisions in their own families, jobs, communities, and world.

Another great children’s morning wake-up call

In the FamilyFun magazine, the Calhoun family from Roseville, Calif. shared their productive wake-up strategy that really works for children of all ages.

For four years, the parents have used morning reading as a trick to get their kids moving in the morning. A bedside lamp is turned on in the child’s room and for a few minutes each morning, the family reads together. The child is aroused by the story and when done reading, is ready to get up and complete the morning routine.

Try a winter picnic

Have a winter picnic with your children. Together, prepare and pack some sandwiches, string cheese, grapes, carrots, and some beverages, and have a picnic on a big blanket in your house. Share conversation, stories, and even read some books together.

Communication advice

I recently heard this helpful piece of advice on communicating with a loved one, but it makes sense to use when communicating with almost anyone, “Talk without offending and listen without defending.”

Have an awesome week, and make time to ask yourself, “What is one nice thing I did for someone today?”