Married For 12 Years

Today Gina and I have been married for 12 years. I’ve had the opportunity to wake up next to her almost every morning in those years (well, and a year or two before that too 😁).  I’ve loved my wife since our second date. I’ve driven her crazy in all that time. We’ve raised two amazing kids over the years, and I have her to thank for that.

I hope I have many more opportunities to pay tribute to my long-suffering, immensely patient, and beautiful partner. She and the kids are the loves of my life, and I am a better person with them in my life.

Our last two anniversaries:

When kids start treating the staff poorly

Kids playing with pillows on a bed

Reconcilable Differences #66, titled “Inherent Injustice”, is both hilarious and cringeworthy for parents. The hosts, Merlin Mann and John Siracusa, were talking about raising young kids, setting examples for them, and issuing parental edicts.

I started giggling at around 31 minutes when they were discussing how kids seem to struggle with this idea that their parents are not servants who exist to cater for their every whim. I had to share this:

I had another laugh at about 1:01:30 when Mann and Siracusa started talking about resolving inconsistencies in rules that parents make for kids. I definitely have a preference for Siracusa’s approach. As with terrorists, there are times when you just don’t negotiate with kids about rules.

This was probably one of the funniest discussions I’ve heard for a while on this show. Even if you don’t listen to the show (and it can be an acquired taste), definitely spend a few minutes listening to these discussions.

The heaviest object in the universe and other parenthood moments

All those parenthood moments

Just when you think you are the only parent who has to deal with ridiculous parenthood moments, you find posts like this that reassure you that you are not alone …

I had this conversation with our kids about two weeks ago:

This, of course, is a classic:

This is a daily occurrence in our home:

There are so many more of these gems but I have work to do and my daughter is going to start wonder why Daddy is laughing so much and what it has to do with her and her brother …

Check out How to Be a Dad for more. It is my new favourite parenting site!

Image credit: Eskimo kissing by Caroline Hernandez

The tooth fairy versus the scientific method

The tooth fairy versus the scientific method

Our daughter is about to lose her first tooth. Like many kids, she has grown up (so far) with the expectation that the tooth fairy will arrive to take her tooth and leave her some money.

She is actually pretty excited about this prospect.

Our son, on the other hand, has become a complete sceptic at 9 years old. He refuses to be persuaded that, among the many things in the Universe that we don’t understand yet, there could be tooth fairies. He knows the tooth thieves and source of the cash are his parents and he has no qualms debunking this particular myth when we mention it.

This, of course, distresses our daughter. She has been waiting so long for her teeth to start falling out that she is really hoping that a tooth fairy arrives at the appointed time.

This presents something of a dilemma for us. I try really hard not to lie to our kids about things, generally. Maintaining the myth of the tooth fairy is commonplace for parents, sure, but, in the case of our son, it feels wrong to go too far with this in the face of growing scepticism.

The Tooth Fairy versus the Tooth Mouse
The Tooth Fairy versus the Tooth Mouse

When it comes to our son, we have basically given up on the whole idea. He lost a tooth recently and I couldn’t even find it to craft an elaborate illusion of a tooth fairy’s visit (well, we’ve gone with the tooth mouse for him).

He lost his tooth or hid it from me and there was no cash waiting for him. He didn’t say anything so I think that phase of his childhood is decidedly over.

Our daughter is only 6 so we’re probably going to run with the tooth fairy/tooth mouse myth for now. I’m tempted to say the deception is really for her because she so desperately wants it to be true but this interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson about how his daughter debunked the myth using the scientific method gave me reason to think a little more about this approach:

I like what deGrasse Tyson said about there being so much wonder in the Universe that we don’t really need to invent things to keep our kids entertained and inspired. Still, does that mean that we need to abandon the tooth fairy so soon?

Perhaps the answer is that when our kids are old enough to deduce for themselves that the whole thing is an elaborate hoax (we leave notes “signed” by the tooth mouse), it’s time to hang up our wings and either come up with another rationale for the cash or just File 13 the whole thing.

What do you think?

Celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary

On our wedding anniversary

Today is our 11th wedding anniversary. It really doesn’t feel like Gina and I have been married for 11 years.

Jac 105.jpg

It feels like we stood under that chuppah just a few short years ago but then I realise we have a 9 year old son and a 6 year old daughter. Then there was also the conversation I had with our kids this morning over breakfast where they pointed out that I was just 30 when we were married.

So, ok, I’ll concede it has been 11 years. Still, it doesn’t feel that long, especially when I look at my wife and how young she still seems.

I won’t go into our story and reminisce about the last decade or so in this post. I did that last year so I’ll just point you to that post if you are curious about how we met and how we grew as a family since then.

I realized that I omitted one little detail in that 10th wedding anniversary post. I knew from the start that Gina would become my wife. I knew it from around the time of our second date.

What I have been thinking about this morning is just how much Gina has taught me about being a better husband, friend and father to our children.

I can’t say I have always listened to the wisdom that she has shared over the years. At the same time, those times when I do pay attention leave me a better person for having done so.

Gina is a wonderful mother and a very patient and understanding wife. I have probably driven her completely crazy many times in our 13 years together (we met in November 2003) and she has still stuck by me and supported me through many tough times.

We are slowly building a new life here in Israel and I can’t think of anyone else I would want to do that with. We have two amazing children who are the embodiment of so many of our qualities. Just as Gina helps me become a better husband and friend to her, our children challenge us to be better parents to them.

For my part, I am really glad she said yes all those years ago and that she remains my partner in this crazy adventure.

Happy anniversary, angel. Love you tons, with much!

Your kids, when you are in a rush

Your kids, when you are in a rush

It is amazing just how slowly kids move when you are in a rush to go anywhere. It is almost as if they are the Universe’s reminder to slow down and smell the flowers, coffee or something.

I had to laugh when my wife shared this video with me on Facebook the other day. We have a running joke that our daughter is slower than a snail moving backwards, up a hill. This is pretty close.

Image credit: Pixabay (sourced from Unsplash)

The VR headset made our kids disappear

Kids trying on the Gear VR headset

Our son recently received a Gear VR headset as a birthday gift. He doesn’t have a phone to use with it so he borrowed his grandmother’s Samsung Galaxy S7 to try the headset out. Actually, we all tried it out and it is an amazing piece of technology.

Watching him use it bothered me, though. The technology has tremendous potential to introduce our kids to experiences of new things using portable VR technology. At the same time I think this we are going to have to moderate how often they use this technology pretty carefully. Bear with me, I’ll explain why I say that.

All that screen time already

At the moment our kids have old smartphones and an old iPad 1 they play with at home. They watch videos on YouTube (our daughter started using YouTube Kids after I “upgraded” her iPad 1 experience to an old iPhone 4s that supports it and she loves it – thankfully), play games like Clash Royale and build stuff in Minecraft.

They only use their devices on weekends and, usually, only after they have finished their homework. Even with that limitation, we have to come up with things to do with them to make sure they don’t spend their entire weekends staring at a screen. I came up with a couple rules to impose some sort of limitation on their device use that include both kids putting devices when the first device’s battery runs flat.

Still, our kids can disappear for a couple hours at a time and spend all that time staring at their devices. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing because some of what they do on their devices is somewhat educational.

I’ve noticed that devices tend to make them pretty anti-social and detached from the rest of the family. Heck, that happens to us parents too so I make a conscious effort to limit my screen time when I am around my kids (and generally).

The VR headset made our kids disappear

VR headsets are only going to aggravate that tendency to detach, I think. You physically can’t see the world around you. The virtual environment can be so consuming, you can easily become oblivious to the world around you. For kids who already have a propensity to be sucked in by screens, I can already see we will need to supervise how much our kids use VR headsets very closely.

Fortunately, they don’t have a device that is compatible with the headset so they simply can’t use it unless someone with a compatible headset is around. That helps!

I’ve been thinking about the phones our kids have (or will have in the case of our daughter). At the moment, our son’s “daily driver” is a very basic Nokia feature phone that can make calls and send SMS messages. Many of his friends have smartphones but I’ve already told him he won’t receive one for a while still. You just have to look at how kids are today with smartphones to guess why (or just watch this interview with Louis CK):

By contrast there is a real world to engage with

Another gift our son received was a dense chalk egg with a plastic crocodile (I think) embedded in it. It came with two plastic tools and the idea was for him to basically chip away at the egg until he uncovered the toy inside.

Desktop archaeology

He spent the better part of the day chipping away at the egg. It looked like a lot of fun and it was the sort of thing that involved everyone, either as spectators or by helping him along.

Desktop archaeology

By the time he finished it in the evening, he had a pile of dust and this little toy. He also really enjoyed doing it and was talking about getting another one. What struck me about this toy/project is that it is a stark contrast to a VR headset. Chipping away at that egg, he was firmly rooted in the moment in our physical space and interacted with whoever was there with him. With a VR headset, he is sequestered from his physical space and from everyone sharing that space with him.

I don’t think that he would be content only doing this sort of thing and I wouldn’t want to prevent him from using devices for play too. I just found the contrasts between the two activities to be pretty indicative of the challenges of VR headsets, especially when it comes to kids.

When it comes to new technologies, I much prefer augmented reality over virtual reality. At least AR takes its cues from the space we occupy and augments it with additional digital and information overlays. I think AR would probably be more beneficial for our kids than VR and I really like the possibilities presented by Corning’s “A Day Made of Glass 2: Same Day. Expanded Corning Vision”:

Just looking at how kids are with smartphones, I am more than a little worried about what we will see if/when there is a VR headset in every kid’s room. For one thing, our kids will stop interacting with each other (at least, relative to the varying degrees of interaction they manage today). They won’t learn to recognise those very human and physical cues we rely on for so much sub-vocal communication as a species.

Go outside and play (and channelling our parents)

Like any generation, I think this comes down to figuring out the balance of the potential of the technology with the harm it could do to our children socially. I am also acutely aware that I probably read like our parents did when we started using gaming consoles back in the day. I’m pretty sure they also lamented that we’d never go outside and play.

To a degree they may have overstated the harm of us playing video games and watching TV. I don’t think the answer is forcing our kids outside and forbidding them modern technology.

On the other hand, I think that the rapid change we witness from year to year makes our jobs as parents that much harder. We have to keep up with the changes, anticipate the risks and try and manage them as best we can.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I think the VR headset is terrific technology and it offers our kids opportunities they didn’t have before. It also has a troubling flip-side and that requires us to keep a foot in both worlds if we have any hope of raising the kinds of humans who won’t be among the first to go when some wild beast attacks because they never learned basic human survival and communication skills.

From the day you were born – a message to our son

Our son’s teacher recently asked the parents in the class to write a message to our son as part of a class assignment. She has been reading them to the kids in class. I decided to write a message to our son in English and attempt a translation into Hebrew. My translation attempt wasn’t great so I asked a friend to help me with a better version (אסף תודה רבה‫!‬).

I thought I’d share it here for posterity.

From the day you were born, the Sun has felt warmer and the stars shone brighter.
You have a kind heart and a sense of wonder that inspires us.
We have loved you since before we met you and always will.

מהיום שנולדת, חשנו שהשמש חמימה יותר והכוכבים נצצו באור בהיר יותר.
יש לך לב טוב וחוש פלא שמעורר בנו השראה.
אהבנו אותך עוד לפני שנפגשנו ותמיד נאהב.

I hope this message to our son doesn’t embarrass him in class. I tend to wax lyrical when I am asked to write something about the people I love (even the people I like).