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Following up on an indirect online recommendation, I experienced an epiphany of sorts via the book Family Building by John Rosemond. Who honestly scares me a little. Makes me want to say, “Yes, ma’am,” and “No, sir,” to anyone beyond my 32 years. Which, for better or for worse, would really be odd in Chicago.

Before you worry that I’ve taken a giant step back to the 1950s with “traditional parenting,” note that — like my approach to education — I’m not comfortable drawing advice from only one source. Which is funny, because politically I’m the opposite.

But I digress.

The premise of Family Building (published in 2005, it may only be new to me) is our primary goal as parents. “Well,” I thought, “I want my kids to be happy! Healthy! Successful!” But happiness, health (to the extent we can control it) and success, Rosemond teaches us (or me, at least), aren’t goals. They are byproducts of raising decent.human.beings.

That, my friends, is where the heavens parted and radiant beams shone down to enlighten me in my quest to do everything right: encourage the right extracurriculars, choose the right schools, watch the right amount of television, sleep at the right time, build the right amount of self-esteem, wear the right shoes.

Not that I’m abandoning my children’s best interests. I just have a clear goal. And that is for my children to be good people. Good friends, good colleagues, good spouses, good parents, good neighbors. Because expecting or trying to be the best — the smartest, fastest, richest, coolest, whatever — doesn’t bring happiness.

And suddenly so many priorities fall into place, the first of which is teaching our children respect for others. The golden rule, if you will. When you learn to consider the needs of others and act on them, I’m willing to bet my dishwasher you’re more likely to find happiness.

The second is building their self confidence, rather than self esteem. My son and my daughter are special in their own right. But everyone is special, and no child needs to think he or she is more special than the next.

The third is placing more emphasis on our family. On spending the elusive “quality time” together, sharing responsibilities and learning from each other.

I know, I know… we’ll also be holding hands and singing Kumbaya together. Stay with me…

Rosemond also suggests parenting should not be hard. And, come on, that might as well be the first thing I think in the morning, the last thing I think at night: parenting, for me, is hard. It is challenging, draining and trying. If adopting a few of these strategies and priorities can help me build my children’s character and focus on how amazing and rewarding parenting can be, I’m in.

Does Rosemond have suggestions for dishes and laundry, too?

Despite my claims that my family isn’t silent, this blog has thus far been a monologue. And while — stand back — I have so many more thoughts rattling around in my head, I think it’s high time you met another Knudsen.

So, I’d like to introduce my son… by way of his imaginary friend.

My son loves construction. Eats and breathes construction. He’s happiest building or digging on a “work site,” and where it is makes no difference. He doesn’t work alone; he fancies himself a truck, a member of a crew of machines — Caterpillar, mostly — that all have names. And as every truck requires a driver, he has one: Michaels.

The driver phenomenon began some months ago, about the time he began asserting himself. If he disagreed with Mom or Dad, we’d hear about it via his driver. “Mooom, my driver said I have to play in the basement right now.” “My driver doesn’t like squash.” “My driver says it’s okay to play outside when it’s 36 degrees and rainy.” That kind of thing.

Happily, Michaels (who is relatively new on the job) is generally agreeable. He is 11-years-old, which qualifies him as an adult to my nearly 5-year-old. He’s married (to his wife, my son clarifies), and has six children, two of whom are Mike and Savannah, and don’t forget baby Flower, who “has a pretty funny name.”

Since today is Memorial Day, my son informs me that Michaels is staying home with his family. They’ll be going to the park and eating pasta with red sauce for dinner. It’s good to know Michaels has such strong family values.

Hosting a truck driver can be tiresome. And I do wonder what my son’s kindergarten teacher and new friends will think in the fall. But mainly we’ve come to enjoy Michaels’ company, and our son’s view of the world through his eyes.

Not surprisingly, the whole TV-destroys-imagination argument is completely lost on us. Michaels says TV in moderation is okay; who are we to argue?