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Daddy Blog Family Japan Life

Observing How Kids Cope with Stress

Life is full of all kinds of stress, both good and bad, and each of us handles it differently.  I would say that how I deal with stress has also changed over time depending on my situation as well as just who I have become as a person.  Ten years ago when I was living in California and owned a motorcycle, I often relieved stress by taking a ride down to the Pacific Coast Highway and pulling over somewhere that I could just sit on the beach and listen to the waves crash in front of me.  Since I’ve had kids I generally have to keep it closer to home so I spend some time reading or writing about airplanes to help unwind.

But I don’t think it is quite that simple for kids.

My kids have been under a fair amount of stress for the last couple of months due to a move overseas for my job.  We packed up all of our stuff back in June and the family took off while I finished up some work and joined them in the beginning of July.  After spending almost two months with family and friends we arrived in Japan about a week and a half ago and, as one would expect, it has been a bit of a culture shock for all of us.  What has been interesting to me is how my kids have dealt with it all.

When they first left home they missed their friends a little, and me up until I joined them, but they were spending so much time with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents that I guess that kind of compensated for the friends they had left behind.  They also stayed super busy with zoos, splash pads, aquariums, pools, hikes, and various other distractions while we were living out of suitcases at no less than five different houses and a handful of hotel rooms.  I really was quite impressed with how well they were holding up all the way to the end.

You could tell that once we got to our last stop in Washington they were starting to get a little anxious; not to mention just being done with going so many different places and not having much of their own stuff.  This became evident first in Crash Niece #1 who started to become quite sad at night around bedtime.  This was not your typical, “I don’t want to go to bed!” sadness, but rather a need to be held and even a few tears.  When I asked her what was wrong all she would say is that she missed our two dogs that we had found new homes for before leaving Arkansas.  A few days later Crash Nephew started to say the same thing when he would just randomly get sad.

As sweet as that was it was a little shocking to me because the two older kids hadn’t show any real great sadness when we had found the dogs new homes.  However, as this new scary adventure became imminent, that was the part of their old home that they latched onto.  Not their friends they had left behind, or our house or trampoline, and not even the family members that we likely won’t see much during our time in Japan.  Instead it was a couple of dogs that they had played with a fair amount, but by no means were they attached at the hip.  If anything, I would say the youngest, who is only two, was the most attached to the dogs and played with them the most of the kids, but she wasn’t the one missing them.

I don’t know that I had any profound epiphany because of this experience, but it just wasn’t something I had every really thought about until now.  We moved a lot when I was a kid, six different houses by the time I was 12, but I don’t really remember being stressed about it, or even how I really felt about it at all.  As an adult I have moved even more than that, and my job pretty much guarantees I will move some more.  It will be really interesting to see how my kids adjust and cope with all of these changes in their lives, as well as what Crash Aunt and I can do to help make it easier for them.

We just moved into our new house over the weekend so all of us are pretty excited to have our own beds and toys and such back.  I’m sure that will help all of us as we adjust to our new life in Japan.  It will likely also help as the kids get back into school in the next couple of weeks.  As much as Crash Niece #1 loves school maybe that will be her new security blanket during these first few months.  Who knows?  All I really know is that my kids never cease to surprise me in ways that I never would have even considered.

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Daddy Blog Family Food

Sometimes It’s Fun to be a Mean Parent

You can tell just how much she loved that lime.
You can tell just how much she loved that lime.

I got to enjoy a nice week with Crash Aunt’s family this last week which included a bunch of fun events and experiences that hopefully our kids will remember for years to come.  One of these events that may be remembered for less than positive reasons was Family Fear Factor Food Edition.

In defense of myself I didn’t make my kids participate, but the two oldest decided they wanted to play with their cousins so we were happy to let them.

The first round involved eating a lemon or lime with the exception of the rind.  As you can see from the picture, my oldest didn’t enjoy this round so much, but her brother didn’t seem to mind.  The second round was a bit more interesting as it involved shrimp chips that were similar in texture to a Cheetos Puff.  The youngest had actually been eating these chips for most of the night, while I thought they were absolutely disgusting.

It took a few tears and encouragement, but the oldest was able to get them down eventually.  Her little brother didn’t seem to mind them at all, but then I saw a face that was all too familiar.  He was starting to gag and I had to act fast if his cousins didn’t want vomit all over them.  I ran around the table and pulled him off the bench just as the projectiles started to exit his mouth.  He ended up getting some on his sleeves but it could have been much worse.

Part of me wanted to laugh along with the rest of the aunts and uncles and cousins, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for the kid.  It was amazing just how much came out of such a little guy.  Don’t feel too bad for him because 20 minute later he was pounding ice cream and running around with his cousins.

The oldest went one more round eating a prune but that was where she stopped.  I went on to eat the tomato sauce, jalapenos, mushroom, and even a nasty sardine.  I didn’t win however as I was unwilling to eat pig’s feet no matter what the reward.

In hindsight, it was incredibly entertaining to watch them both struggle through, and I am very proud of them for doing something that was scary to them.  Sometimes it just takes a little “mean” parenting to get them to push their limits.

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Daddy Blog Family

Creativity is Alive and Well in Kids…If We Allow It

I love all of the funny things that my kids do that make me laugh.  Sometimes it is them being naughty, which any parent will tell you is one of the hardest things as a parent, not laughing when they are being naughty.  However, this experience was just good clean fun.

One of my kids favorite games to play in the car is “I spy with my little eye…”.  They regularly play this game even on relatively short trips, and it is incredibly entertaining for me and Crash Aunt.  The reason it’s so funny is because of how they play.  It usually goes something like this: “I spy with my little eye…a red car.” (Which is parked right next to us.)  Or, “I spy with my little eye a yellow balloon.” (Again, the only yellow balloon in the area.)  It is hilarious how blatantly obvious they are with their clues, but they love it so who cares?

Last week the two oldest were playing (ages 4 and 6) when Crash nephew decided he was done, mostly because he likes to frustrate his sister, so she proceeded to play with my youngest.  When we pointed out that she is only two years old and didn’t know how to play, she was undeterred.  She offered to tell her sister what to say so that they could still play together.  It was great.

It really got me thinking about how much I probably stifle my kids’ growth and imagination by allowing them to spend time on electronics or watching TV instead of forcing them to come up with their own games and entertainment.  Kids don’t need a lot to be entertained as long as we allow them to just have fun.  Much the way that Crash Dad observed a bunch of fifth graders having fun on a bus together, they don’t need a bunch of stuff to have fun as long as they have other kids to play with, or maybe even a willing parent.

That was one of the great things about having seven kids in our family growing up.  There was always someone else to play basketball with, or build a fort with, or play balloon volleyball in the living room with.  We didn’t even consider going to electronics, which at the time was just a tv, we found ways to be entertained.  I don’t want this to sound like a “When I was a kid…” story, but rather just pointing out that kids are every bit as creative as they ever were, we just have to let them do it.

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Daddy Blog Kid Milestones

None of the Amazing Things I Have Seen Compare to How Amazing Kids Are

First let me introduce myself so you understand where I’m coming from.  As Crash Uncle I am Crash Dad’s favorite brother, and the absolute coolest uncle in the family.  I have an amazing wife and three kids that are the most important thing in life.  I am also a navigator for the US Air Force on the C-130 Hercules which allows me to see some amazing things.  Because of that job I often have to leave home for days or weeks at a time, and this weekend, was one of those instances.

While I was away Crash Aunt, my wife, decided that Crash Niece, my daughter, needed to learn to ride her bike without training wheels. We had tried previously to no avail, but she was determined that it was time.  So she ripped the training wheels off and let her loose on the street, and what do you know…

…she rode all by herself the very first time.

Kids grow too dang fast.
Kids grow too dang fast.

First Bike Ride

Fortunately they were kind enough to make a video of the first attempt so that I could participate from a distance.  Though it is no replacement for being there in person, I will take what I can get.  It was just amazing to me how quickly kids learn new things. Now she did fall a couple of times yesterday trying to learn how to turn, but she kept getting up and trying which is all a parent really wants.

I came home today and the first thing my daughter did when she got home from school was to take me outside and show me how good she was.  Once again I was amazed at how much better she had gotten since even yesterday.  She even started to challenge herself by riding through the gutter and onto the grass, followed by riding along the edge of the gutter without going into the grass or into the gutter.  She did all of that by herself because she was trying to make it more fun, and I couldn’t be prouder.

So many kids these days don’t know how to have fun outside, but I am so thrilled that my kids are not that way.  Sometimes I wonder if I am doing it right with my kids, but I knew we were doing something right when she told me something while riding today.  She said, “Dad, I don’t like cars they are yucky, I just want to ride my bike everywhere cause it’s healthy.”