Archive for the ‘Kids and Parenting’ Category

>An article appeared in today’s Washington Post that caught my eye entitled “Pull the plug on TVs in teen’s room?” The piece was yet another installment in the continuing “debate” over the effect of allowing children to watch to view television excessively – in this case by locating a television in a pre-teen or teen’s bedroom.

“Pediatricians” and “child development experts” warn that putting a TV in a child’s room is associated with a host of undesirable outcomes, among them poor school performance, behavior issues, and obesity. I’m so glad that we have these experts working tirelessly around the clock to tell good parents what we already know: too much of anything, in this case television, is a bad thing.

Why is this not perceived as common sense? Is having the TV in the bedroom the real issue here, or is it that parents no longer exert any control over the actions of their children? My son has a television in his room with a satellite hookup and an Xbox attached. He excels in school, is as thin as a rail, and shows no evidence of any “behavior issues.”

Either he is the exception to the rule or this study has missed the point: parents need to monitor their children. Americans have decided subconciously en masse to no longer take responsibility for their own actions or lack lack of actions when it comes to child-rearing. We’ve also decided to deflect blame for the failure of proper parenting towards any target other than the most natural one – the parent.

If we think music is profane, we protest the music rather than restrict our children from purchasing or listening to it. If we think television is too racy or too violent we blame the networks rather than changing the channel. Now, we’re blaming the physical location of an electronic appliance for children becoming disconnected from their families and lazy.

It’s the adults who are actually being lazy if they no longer care enough about their children to take charge of their well being, instead looking to pointless studies which derive obvious answers to explain away their shortcomings as parents.

TV, like any other form of media, can be a wonderful thing for children. Let’s not forget about that when we read stories detailing the results of studies like this one.

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>By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

Recently, my son was introduced to the most frustrating sport on the face of the earth — golf. I hesitated to let him learn, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to submit him to the pain and agony — mixed with periodic moments of glee — that only golf can bring.
But, my son is a true sports-lover, and an avid athlete, so I relented and let him go to golf camp. Unfortunately for him, he enjoyed the camp, and the sport.
So, after his two weeks of lessons, I took him to Manistee National to golf what they call the “short set.” Marked by gold stakes at around 150-220 yards, or shorter for the par 3’s, this is a fantastic way for young golfers to get acquainted with the game, without getting frustrated about shot distance.
But of course, there was some frustration on Reidar’s part, as he whiffed a few times, took a few big divots, or overshot the greens on his chip shots — just like the big boys do. Better that he start to experience the exasperating aspects of the sport early, so he knows what’s in for him, I figured.
The short set, while a good teaching tool, is also a stellar way for dads to lower their scores for nine holes and work on their short games. You can be sure that I put that score card on the fridge for everyone to see. Of course, I don’t let anyone know that I had the benefit of playing a distance roughly half of the fairway for the majority of the holes. It was dad and Reidar’s “little secret.”
As a father, it was a joy to teach my son the finer points of the game. No, I’m not talking about grip, stance, club selection, or any of that stuff. The golf pro taught him that in camp.
I’m talking about how to yell “fore” when you hit a wicked slice towards the tee box on the next fairway, where a foursome is getting ready to hit. Or how tipping the woman driving the beer cart will assure she’ll stop again to re-beer you when she comes back around.
There was also the lesson in how to improve a lie with your foot, by kicking the ball out of the woods or other identified “hazard.” My son particularly liked the method I taught him for getting out of the trap, with the patented “baseball throw” method.
And, as usual, there’s the sometimes creative scoring method. He picked up on that one quickly. It seems that shaving strokes is something golfers do almost inherently as part of their genetic code.
More serious lessons were part of that first round, though. Teaching how to tend the flag, let the person whose ball is away hit first, being quiet and courteous when other golfers were hitting, replacing ball marks and divots, and knowing where the cart can and cannot drive, for example.
The sport holds ancillary lessons, as well.
Golf, however much we sometimes hate it, is a lesson in discipline, manners, and gentlemanship. I’m not sure that last one’s a real word, but it fits what I’m trying to say. Etiquette is really the proper word.
The reason I like golf is simple. You hit 10 bad shots, then one good one. That one good one gives you such a thrill that you can then make it through the next 10 bad shots — albeit sometimes with the urge to throw your $200 driver into a water hazard.
But it must be an enjoyable experience overall, because I keep coming back.
Golf is also relaxing, often times peaceful and scenic, and a good opportunity for golf partners to just talk, far away from the hectic pace and frenetic activity of everyday life. I made sure to point out to the little man that the game wasn’t just about hitting a white ball around a course for a few hours.
So, yeah, I’m going to be a little corny here and say that my son Reidar and I did a little male bonding on the golf course on that sunny July day. But it’s a day I’ll never forget — our first round together — and I hope there will be hundreds more like it in the years to come.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

I recently went to Disney World with my family of five for the first time, and something happened to me. It felt different, somehow.
The last time I went to the magic kingdom in California, I went for myself. I’ve been there several times, the first time when I was seven years old. And I always had a blast. Every ride, every show, each attraction was amazing — no matter how hoky some of them now might seem to me as an adult.
In a world without the Internet, video games, computer generated movie effects, and 100-channel cable TV, Disney really was the most magical place on earth. For a youngster in the 70s, it was truly awesome, from the pre-Jonny Depp Pirates of the Carribbean ride to the now 40 year old Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse to the recently removed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride.
It’s no wonder the parks have had to update rides and add some newer, more thrilling rides to keep the kids interested. The world is a little more cynical, more technologically adept, and quite frankly expects more. Despite these increased expectations, today’s multiple Disney Parks still provide the same thrill level for kids and adults alike.
But I wasn’t a kid anymore. And the exact same level of marvel wasn’t there. This trip to Florida’s version of the Disney-themed park was for my kids this time rather than myself — and that was okay with me.
In one respect it was a little sad that I didn’t get as excited as I used to when my parents would take me to an amusement park as a kid. Despite the fact that not all of the rides held the same magic they once did, it was far more enjoyable to see how much my own kids enjoyed the experience.
My kids were wired every day of our six day vacation. The number one phrase I heard that week was “lookit, dad” as my children took turns pointing out the characters, rides, and other wonderful sights at Disney World, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, MGM, and the Disney water parks.
Don’t get me wrong, I had my favorite thrill rides too. My interest have merely shifted from the tried-but-true log ride to scarier attractions such as Twilight Zone’s Tower of Terror and Aerosmith’s Rock N Rollercoaster.
And I have to admit that I was as excited about the Star Wars Weekend at Disney’s MGM Studio theme park as my son was. Seeing storm troopers, Jawas, droids, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and the rest of the Lucas space opera gang walking around in their full regalia for photo opportunities by park visitors made me a bit giddy.
But what made me feel that same real thrill I had at age seven — and provided a glimpse back into what it felt like to experience theme parks for the first time — was watching my eight and almost three year old kids’ reactions to everything.
Suddently, all of the $8 chicken nuggets, stifling crowds, long lines, and other hassles inherent to Disney were all worth it just to see how much fun the kids were having. And yes, my daughter had a level 10 melt-down near the end of the trip, complete with kicking, screaming, and all of the other wonderful attributes that make a terrible two tantrum such a joy to witness. (And it was witnessed by several hundred Disney goers, some who nodded with that, “been there, done that” smile, and others who were mortified at that spectacle).
The entire Disney experience made me think about life these days.
Since the newest Burgeson came into the world about two months ago, I’ve been feeling old. It was far easier to handle the lack of sleep, multiple diaper changes, and constant care and attention that a newborn requires when we had our first son at the age of 28 — which now seems like a million years ago — because now that I’m closer to forty than thirty, it isn’t as easy to keep up with the new-dad lifestyle.
At the same time, having two kids under the age of three actually keeps me feeling young.
Through their eyes I’m seeing things that I’ve forgotten about for years. And it’s a joy to rediscover all of the joys of that time when I was young, and innocent, and seeing and experiencing a so much for the very first time.
With my two-going-on-thirteen-year-old daughter, I am re-experiencing my own trials and tribulations of growing up with a little sister. The two older kids bicker, and fight, and tattle on each other just like my sister and I did when we were young.
I know the “dad, Reidar hit me” (even though he really didn’t) trick, because it was pulled on me time and time again by my own sister. I also know the ‘stick your foot out when your sister runs through the living room and watch her take a header” trick, which I myself perfected back in 1974.
With my eight-year-old son, I get to remember the joy of learning to read, enjoying the simplicity of playing catch in the backyard, and spending lazy afternoons fishing in a 16 foot aluminum boat on the lake — among many others.
And as my children each get older, I will get to re-examine life at every stage; age 10, 11, 12, 13,…
And all the while, continue to feel young through my kids.
So, while I sometimes want to pull out what is left of my hair (about 30 percent) when my daughter rather loudly and defiantly refuses to potty on the big potty, or when my son bounces hockey pucks off of the windows in the living room, or when I get home from work at midnight and fall in bed, only to have the baby wake me at 12:15 — I realize that it’s all worth it.
Because they will never be two-years-old again, or eight-years-old again, or 7-weeks-old again. And I know that I’ll miss these crazy, hectic, wondrous times.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

Sports injuries happen. No matter how much conditioning or strength training a young athlete does, they will get hurt at one point in their careers.
One of the more unfortunate incidents that happen in spring sports is being struck with a baseball or softball. Everyone who has every played ball has either been hit by a pitch, taken a bad hop off of a ground ball in the chest, or in the worst case scenario — been hit by a line drive.
My own son was hit in the face last week when a hard throw tipped off of his glove and struck his face, splitting his lip. After we washed off the blood and iced it, he was as good as new. With most baseball injuries caused by a batted or thrown ball, this is the case — but not always.
In New Jersey, a 12-year-old boy was struck in the chest by a batted ball from a metal bat. The boy went into cardiac arrest and suffered serious injuries. A few years back, a boy in Florida was the victim of a similar incident and died. Incidents like this one have gotten some parents and some lawmakers up in arms about the use of aluminum bats.
Lawmakers in New Jersey are considering banning metal bats as a result of the incident. Recently, metal bats were barred from New York City high schools after the city council overrode a mayoral veto of the bill banning the bats. North Dakota has also enacted a similar ban — the only state so far to do so.
There is a concern that high school baseball players, in particular, are becoming stronger, and bat manufacturers are developing newer, more high tech bats, which give them greater bat speed and harder hit balls. North Dakota’s ban came when an American Legion player died after being struck in the head by a drive off of an aluminum bat.
Currently, the state of Michigan and the Michigan High School Athletic Association have no plans to ban metal bats from high school competition and move towards wood bats like New York City. MHSAA assistant director Mark Uyl, told the Detroit Free Press that he thinks they may have acted too quickly on this issue in New York. “There has absolutely been no support nor have we heard any criticism that would make a change,” he said. “Wood probably is more safe than aluminum. But there is no statistical data, no testing that has proved that.”
The Illinois High School Athletic Association is conducting such a study, though, with 50 participating high schools. The National Federation of State High School Associations is funding the research, and the data should be available in June. Despite their support for the study, a representative of the NFSH has said that only a few reports of kids being hit have come in nation-wide this year.
The NFSH standard for bats is the Ball Exit Speed Ratio, which tests the speed of a ball off of a bat. The standard limits aluminum bats to a similar BESR to that of a wooden bat. This figure is used to acquire a bat weight-to-length ratio to which all levels of youth baseball must adhere to — essentially equalizing wooden and metal bats.
So, what is all the fuss? If the ball comes off of the bat at the same speed, it doesn’t make sense to call the aluminum bat the culprit in these few freak instances where injuries occur. Add to that the fact that wooden bats crack and break, and pieces of them fly in the air, and the safety issue seems to lean towards aluminum bats being the safer choice.
Aside from the safety issue, from an economic perspective, metal bats are also the cheaper choice. With education budgets shrinking, and athletic funds waning, replacing broken wooden bats would soon overcome the costs of aluminum bats, which with the right care, can last a lifetime.
As a baseball purist, I personally like to keep the game and its traditions intact. But I have to admit, I played with aluminum bats for my entire career in baseball, from T-ball up to high school, and in several adult softball leagues, and I don’t remember any serious injuries. I also know that for younger children, it is far easier to learn to swing properly, learn hand-to-eye coordination, and develop bat speed with a metal bat.
Wooden bats are one tradition that is better left for the majors. The rest of us with less than professional talents have an easier time hitting with aluminum bats, and games have a lot more action and are far more fun as a result. And for the few players who advance to the level where wooden bats are the norm, there will be an adjustment — but that number of athletes is very low, and the players who make it that far have been making that adjustment for years.
I think it’s important to protect our youth from sports injuries in any way we can, whether it is through proper instruction and coaching, or the selection of the best equipment. But let’s not get so caught up in protecting our children that we buy them flak vests to play baseball in, as was suggested years ago after that youngster died from a line drive to the chest. (It was later found that the boy had a heart defect which led to his death in the incident.)
And let’s not take away aluminum bats because of a few freak accidents.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>While some parents are supposedly “getting cooler,” I’d like to know “what’s the point?”
By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

The Today Show ran a story this week about the so called “grupsters.” (Yes, I was watching the Today Show. My wife had it on, okay?)
Anyway, this group of people is supposedly full-fledged grown-ups with jobs in their twenties or thirties, who have families and mortgages, and, nevertheless, “refuse to be lame in the face of responsibility.” The responsibility that these people are afraid will make them “lame” is parenting their children.
They call themselves self-empowered — I say they are just self-indulgent. Their name “grupsters” is derived from hipster, yuppie and “Grups” — a term for grown-ups on a planet ruled by children in a “Star Trek” episode, according to a much-e-mailed New York magazine article last year.
Many of the parents who count themselves as part of this group consider it a “movement.” It sound more like a marketing ploy with the social power of a Hallmark created holiday. Apparently, there are clothing lines and other products designed for the trendy parent and child, and groups who gather to commiserate about how their children are robbing them of their “individuality.”
Grupsters call themselves “parents with street cred” — thirty-somethings who look, talk, act and keep up with trends as if they are still college students. As far as I’m concerned, they are thirty-somethings who pine away for the care free life of their college days, and refuse to grow up.
So, how can you determine if you’re a grupster? Does your daughter wear Dora the Explorer T-shirts or your old concert T-shirts of 80’s bands whose popularity waned a decade before they were born? Are you a Wiggles fan, or do you lull your kids to sleep with the latest Green Day album? Do you ban Barney from the house even if your kids love it? Let’s hear from one of these self proclaimed hip parents:
“Grupsters are parents who look cooler than people who call them grupsters,” and that’s about it, says Paige Maguire, the 29-year-old co-founder of “Rock N Romp,” a monthly independent music concert for kids and grown-ups. “I’m just parenting and living with my own identity and sharing who I am with my son, instead of wearing khakis and driving a minivan to Gymboree. I didn’t have a kid so I could be a different person; I had a kid so I could introduce myself to him and learn who he is.”
What? Now we’re introducing ourselves to our kids? How about we actually PARENT out kids? Maybe channel some of that “gosh I wanna be one of the cool kids in high school still” energy into developing our children instead?
And why do we assume that the other end of the parenting spectrum is khakis and mini-vans? There are a thousand shades of different parents and parenting styles in between these so called “cool parents” and what they consider the “sell out” crowd.
If we shed Barney, The Wiggles, and The Backyardigans from our kids’ lives, and instead replace them with 80’s punk rock and the latest music from The Killers, how are we doing our children a favor? Why can’t we let kids just be kids? Isn’t there a possibility that kids raised with an accelerated pop-culture awareness grow up too fast?
While I do enjoy the occasional Green Day song with my son, and we watch a show on the Versus Network about the world’s worst sports injuries together, or even “Pimp My Ride” on MTV, I still carefully watch what he listens to, screen out the sexual and potty mouth content, and let him enjoy songs from the popluar “Naked Brothers Band” television show, which are as innocent, innocuous and childlike as can be, while still hip for the eight year old set.
The need to be my kid’s friend isn’t as great to me as the need to be his father. There is a definite line of demarcation we’re talking about here. Kids don’t want a cool parent/friend. They want – and need — a parent, first and foremost. Spending time trying so hard to be cool for me would only take away from coaching baseball, playing with my children, reading to them, heck, generally enjoying them – and letting them enjoy having a father who isn’t trying to be their buddy. To me, that is cooler than any $80 pair of jeans, $100 haircut, or $1,000 alternative CD collection could make me to my kids.
And what kind of message does this send to our children? That being cool is the most important priority? There is an inherent snobbery that comes from placing labels like this on any group of people, or of creating expectations of what is and isn’t “normal,” — especially when it comes to our kids.
What it all boils down to is that there is no one right or wrong way to parent children, no template to follow for success. Parents come in all shapes and sizes, and so do kids. Sure, let’s allow our children the freedom to be who they want to be, but guide them at the same time — and not worry so much about what kind of designer shirt we’re wearing when our infant spits up on it.
And in the same vein, we don’t have to give up our own dreams, ideals, and sense of identity when we have kids, but we do have the responsibility to accept that once we have children, we do become different people, whether we like it or not. These “grupsters” are afraid that their children are changing their identity, when they really should realize that their children are part of their identity, a fact that they should be proud of, rather than ashamed.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

I recently watched the 2004 movie “Sideways,” which I thought was well written, because the way in which the two main characters, played by Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, spoke and acted — was just like real guys do.

Case in point: when they’re playing golf and the group behind them hits up on them, they do the typical guy thing. They turn around and hit their ball back at them.
Now, this may seem childish. It may even seem mean.
But it is what guys do.

And I have to admit. I’ve done it too.

More than once.

And I know that there are other guys out there who’ve done the same thing.
So what makes us so competitive? We all have day jobs. We aren’t professional athletes. We aren’t kids, or high school athletes, even. But, we still seem to play our sports as if we’re pros, and we’re getting paid for it.

I’ve also witnessed this zeal for adult sports in my hockey league. Grown men, who have families, kids, and go to church on Sundays – will still drop the gloves when they catch an elbow in a recreational league game from time to time. And they’ll use words on the ice that they wouldn’t want their mothers to hear.

I may have even once or twice had a potty-mouth when I’ve played. I come from a long line of highly competitive, amateur athletes (very amateur, as a matter of fact.)
Usually, in the hockey league, everyone is polite, and we all get along. But once in a while, that male competitiveness rears its ugly head, and scuffles ensue. A couple of times, we’ve even had to clean some blood off of the ice — but not very often.
We can’t help it. It’s in our genes somewhere, right next to the gene for waging war, not asking for directions, and drinking cheap beer by the keg.

Grown men cannot help playing every sport as if their livelihood, honor, and reputation depend on it. I’ve seen it in hockey, golf, softball, pool, bowling, videogames, horseshoes, fishing, hunting and lawn jarts, to name a few areas. I doubt there is any aspect of daily living that men haven’t competed at, and taken it seriously.

Sometimes way too seriously.

But isn’t that what makes sports fun? What good is playing if something isn’t at stake? Competition is healthy. It’s fun. And it’s why we play.

It’s also why we watch. We take pride in OUR team, OUR team’s record, and OUR chances for the playoffs, series, tournament, etc. We take this ownership as if we are actually playing right along with our heroes on the ice, courts, arenas and fields.

It’s this sense of belonging, of being part of the group, of competing — win or lose — that makes us human.

While I know that we take it too far sometimes, I think our sense of competitiveness is good for us – it makes life interesting, fun, exciting, and meaningful.
So if you’re the group behind me at Manistee National and you think I’m playing a bit slow, go ahead and hit up on me.

But be ready.

I’m gonna hit it right back at ya.

Cean Burgeson can be reached at cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>By CEAN BURGESON

Associate Editor

As I sit on the precipice of becoming a father for the third time this April, I wonder what it will be like when all three children finally meet each other.

Our home is already like a combination between a zoo and an insane asylum with two children and the dog — getting the kids ready for school and daycare, drop-offs, pick-ups, hockey games, feeding time, bath time, bed time…

How will this new one affect the fine balance we have achieved in our household? Despite how mad it looks to outsiders, we’ve kind of gotten things down to a science. While it may not appear that way to the untrained eye, there is an order to things. But will this order be broken by the new youngling?

As we desperately attempt to potty-train my two-year old so we won’t have two children in diapers at the same time, my daughter fights us with every fiber of her being, determined not to comply. She also has a constant inner-dialogue going with herself, only it manifests itself as an outer dialogue — she continuously talks to us, herself, her baby-dolls, strangers at the mall, inanimate objects. And when she isn’t talking, she is screaming. This is one little lady who wants to be heard.

And while she loves her brother, and he loves her, they also both love to compete with each other. This usually builds to a crescendo of screaming, crying, and the separation of the two inmates into their own cells.

My seven-year-old son, while much easier to take care of as a rule, still refuses to ever stop moving, even to eat dinner. One foot is always on the floor, ready for him to sprint away at a moment’s notice. He runs from room to room of the house, or skoots around on his Heely shoes, rolling everywhere and spinning in the aisle at the grocery store.

When he isn’t running or rolling around, he plays hockey in every room of the house, with all manner of sticks, balls, pucks, and nets which are set up in various places. Keeping up with him is no small chore. And he wants to be an athlete when he grows up. So he plays hockey, baseball, soccer, does karate,… and I’m sure I’m leaving something out.

So how will our new baby boy, Owen, get the attention he needs from us? Will he be drowned out by his siblings and their constant bustling, chatter, and mayhem? Will he be a victim of third child-syndrome?

Maybe he’ll be the quiet one. The easy one. The one who is a dream to take care of.

Or — God forbid — he’ll become one of them. They’ll turn him.

The crazy Burgeson kids with their sibling fighting, yelling, screaming, tackling, and general high-level tom-foolery. The kids who scare telemarketers off of the phone when they call and hear my daughter shrieking at her brother to give back her toy, and him yelling back a her, to which the telemarketer usually says, “it sounds like you’d better go.”

I have to admit, at least it gets the telemarketers off the phone. And sometimes the grandparents.

Owen has to hear all of this going on outside of his comfortable little amniotic world.

What does he think of all of this?

I can feel him moving in the womb now, with the palm of my hand on my wife’s belly. He moves a lot.

I think it’s because he hears everything his crazy brother and sister (and parents, for that matter) are doing on the outside, and he’s getting ready. I picture him working out his little arms and legs like a boxer, readying himself to join the others, ready to defend himself.

You’ve got two more months, buddy. Get in shape.

Cean Burgeson can be reached at cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

It’s been over a year now that my daughter has been living with us. I can gladly say that she has officially lived with us longer than she lived with her foster mother. Ariana turned two in June, and people have been asking for an update on her, so here goes.She is a tough, stubborn, willful girl — and she clearly lays claim to our household.I often wonder how much of her personality is natural and how much has been shaped by her circumstances. She was left by her birth mother at two days old and taken from her foster mother at the age of 14 months when a ragged group of Americans named the Burgesons showed up on one sweltering September day in Wuhan, the capital city of the Hubei province of China.I guess she has a right to be a little particular. Her short life has been packed with uncertainty and trauma that most two year-olds don’t experience. I would have thought that she was too young to have it affect her at all or stick with her, but it has.Uncertain of strangers, and ever cautious in new situations, she still has some trepidation in her life. It took the better part of a year for her to open up to us. Kisses, hugs, and cuddling were not commonplace like they were with our son at her age. She was afraid of traveling in a different car than ours, being left with anyone new, and became clingy when we went to new places.It broke my heart that even after living with us for months, she was still afraid of being handed over again to someone new. For a long time, she was nervous if at least one member of our family wasn’t in the room with her at all times.But slowly, ever so slowly, her tough exterior, and the bulk of her fears, faded with the passing of time. Now, she insists on a “kiss-hug” from mom and dad on a regular basis. And when she hasn’t seen me for a while, she will sit on my lap and watch TV or read a book, or even just lean her head on me while I twiddle on the laptop. This is any daddy’s dream. And she has me wrapped around her finger — a daddy’s girl if I ever saw one.I can’t tell you how hard it was to earn this trust and love from her — far harder than I had ever imagined it would be. But it came eventually, and when she’s sweet, she’s the sweetest little cupcake you’ve ever seen.But she still has that stubborn side. She still won’t let us forget that she’s the princess, and she likes things her way. We stand up to her, but it’s not always pretty.Some of that is the terrible twos, and some of it is baggage from her former life. It doesn’t matter, though. All kids have a personality forged from both nature and nurture. With enough love and the proper direction, I know she’ll harness that toughness into a strength that will serve her well as she grows up and moves out on her own some day.So, after a year, we’re into a groove; a pretty normal family. My seven year-old son Reidar loves playing with his little sister. She calls him geh geh, Chinese for big brother, and really the only Chinese she still speaks on a regular basis. I’d put her language skills on par with kids a year older than her. Her mind seems to have worked overtime to catch up to her english speaking peers, to the point that she has surpassed them.Part of this is probably so she can compete with her brother. They get along pretty well, and they fight like any other siblings, and the normal rivalries are there too. The house feels like part playground and part insane asylum when they are together. It’s definitely a lively joint in the mornings when they get ready for school and daycare, and in the evenings when it’s time for dinner, homework, and baths.The next challenge for little Ari, as we call her, will come in April. This is when we will welcome the next addition to our family. I don’t know what kind of magical powers Chinese babies have, but she apparently has some affect on fertility among western women. After trying on and off for seven years to have another baby, and adopting as a result of our inability to conceive, we were finally able to become pregnant — only after Ari came into our lives.Just another piece of evidence to support my theory that life is filled with strange ironies and even stranger coincidences. No doctor can explain this phenomena. But we aren’t the first adoptive family to experience it.How will Ari handle not being the baby anymore?I just hope we have a boy, because I’m not sure if there is room for another princess in our house.But if I’ve learned anything from my daughter, it’s that you just need to roll with the punches in life, take what it gives you, and stay strong. And I’m sure that’s what she’ll do.Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

Human beings have a natural, genetically pre-wired need for competition. And like any other human need, such as hunger or thirst, this need must be fulfilled in order for humans to feel whole. This is why I found myself in a triathlon in Interlochen a few weeks ago. I had never competed in one, but was convinced by my wife to do so. She had always dreamed of being a “triathlete,” and I went along for the ride.After all, I couldn’t let her have bragging rights over me if I didn’t do it, too.For those of you who aren’t familiar with this multi-sport event, you swim, then bike, then run a pre-determined distance. The olympic distances are a 1500 meter (just under one mile) swim, then a 40 Kilometer (24.8 mile) bike, finishing with a 10K (6.2 mile) run. The race we participated in was a shorter version, called a “sprint,” which comprised of a 500-meter swim, a 20K bike, and a 5K run. Although it was shorter, it was just as brutal for those of us who aren’t in olympic shape.The entire course took almost two hours to complete.In 90 degree heat.I had to ask myself why we did this… Because we need to compete.Nothing feels better than accomplishing something, especially when pitted against our fellow man (or woman.) Human beings competed for millions of years for food, shelter, mates, and just about everything else. Competition is part of our genetic survival code.That is why it feels good to compete, whether or not we win or lose — it’s in our blood. My 7 year old son is extremely competitive. This is not something we taught him. He came that way.As a father and a coach for more than one of his teams, I’ve learned that one of the hardest things to teach children is the fine balance between competitiveness and bad sportsmanship.Despite that, this is an extremely important lesson to teach; and I think at times, we shortcut it as parents and coaches, or avoid it altogether. My son has played in leagues where they keep score, and leagues where they don’t keep score. He enjoys the ones where they keep score much more — as do most of his teammates. Even in the leagues where we tell the kids we aren’t keeping score, they do it anyway. Young athletes enjoy measuring themselves against others, just like their full-grown counterparts. Sometimes I wonder if we’re de-emphasizing competitiveness too much with our children.I agree, at a young age, its important for kids to learn the game, without the pressure of worrying whether they are scoring or not. Unfortunately, parents have ruined it for their kids over the last 10 years or so. There have been too many instances of parents being injured or even killed over children’s sporting events.And who hasn’t witnessed the “ugly parent,” who yells at his own child, or the opposing team, coaches, or officials during a game. It’s an ugly thing to see, and children don’t need to be exposed to this type of behavior. But have we gone too far in trying to shelter kids? What do we teach our children when we tell them that keeping score isn’t important? They know from watching television that there’s a winner and a loser in every game. There is an age at which kids can handle losing a game, and its good for them to learn that they won’t always end up on top in life. Its not just a cliche’ — more can be learned from losing than winning. The difference between this lesson being a constructive or a destructive one for a child is in how the subject is broached by parents, coaches, and officials. Children’s sports can still be fun and rewarding for children when they are allowed to experience the joy of victory, as well as the agony of defeat. I think we’ve forgotten that its possible to still teach sportsmanship while keeping a tally of who performed better on a particular day.It’s a more realistic way to instruct children about sports — and life, for that matter. Studies suggest that participation in sports can be very beneficial, fostering responsible social behaviors, greater academic success, and an appreciation of personal health and fitness. Participating on a team can also give children an important sense of belonging.Sports are opportunities for youth to learn; they provide a “practice field” for life. Learning to work as part of a team teaches children social skills that will help them in their growth into adults, not just as athletes. For youth, participating in sports develops teamwork, leadership, self-confidence,self-discipline, and coping skills. Sports also teach a respect for authority.The most important part of athletics is participation. That’s why I didn’t care if I won my age group in the Interlochen triathlon. I was there to participate, and just to see if I could finish — even though I finished near the bottom of the heap. We don’t always give our children the credit they deserve. They’re smart enough to know right from wrong. We just need to guide them properly. If we show our kids that we are most proud of them for their participation, they don’t care whether or not they win or lose, and they’re better off in the long run.Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>When I meet somebody new, one of the first questions I am invariably asked is “what do you do for a living?” I used to tell people that I was a stay at home dad for my six year old son and one year old daughter. This usually prompts the response, “Oh, a Mr. Mom, eh?” I bite my tongue at this point, because I want to say, “No, my children have a mother. I’m still their Dad. We don’t call their mother Mrs. Dad, so why should I be called Mr. Mom?” But instead of getting into an argument, I simply nod and smile.

These same people may also think to themselves that I’m either a: a burned-out result of the business rat-race, or b: a liberal new-aged hippie type. Neither of these answers could be more false. The simple truth is that we needed daycare for our newly adopted daughter and the prospect of spending $8,000 or so a year for both kids to be raised by someone else for several hours per week was a distasteful idea for my wife and me. Her recent promotion and health insurance benefits were sufficient for us to make it on and I had the opportunity to start my own communications business out of the home, so I made the leap and quit my job.

Now I start out conversations by telling new acquaintances that I run my own business out of the house and also stay at home with our children. I don’t know why I feel embarrassed sometimes to be a stay at home parent, and I’m guilty that I do. Why is a male stay at home parent such an alien idea in the 21st century? If my wife was staying at home, no one would tell her that she’s leaving a huge gap in her resume and it’ll be harder to get back into the workforce when the time comes. No one would think she must be having a rough stretch career wise or a mid-life crisis. When a woman chooses to stay home to raise her children, the response is always, “Great! I admire you for that. I wish I could’ve done that.”

On a daily basis, I proudly join the mommies at the kids’ school parties, I carpool to hockey practices, perform the drop offs at daycare, school, and karate, and drag the kids to their doctor and dentist appointments. I bake cookies for the school bake sale, trade recipes with the other parents, and make sure the homework is done, dinners are made and the permission slips are filled out. I have my own daddy flair that I perform my duties with, though. My daughter doesn’t always have bows in her hair and wears jeans more often than skirts. I chauffer my son in the minivan with Green Day blaring instead of “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” and the reward for good marks at school are a game of NHL 2006 on the Xbox. I don’t try to change who I am; I incorporate it into my current role as key parental unit.

I realize I’m not the first to do what I’m doing, and I feel a kinship with other stay at home Dads. As such, I feel an obligation to break the mold of traditional husband/wife roles and to pave the way for stay at home parents who aren’t judged by their genders, but rather by their convictions to do what is right for their families. So next time you meet a guy who tells you he’s a stay at home parent, tell him “Great! I admire you for that. I wish I could’ve done that,” because if you ever get the chance to be more active in parenting your children by staying at home, you’ll never regret the decision to do so.