Inspired by a Child

Learning about life through the eyes of a child

When I was six years old, my grandfather suffered a heart attack while staying with us and spent some time in the hospital. My father borrowed a neighbor’s video recorder and the family filmed a get well video. It might be the only video that exists from before I was 15. This was 1982. In the video, I sang Simon & Garfunkle’s “Cecillia”. After I grew up, I always thought it was funny that at that age I was singing lyrics like:

Making love in the afternoon with Cecilia
Up in my bedroom (making love)
I got up to wash my face
When I come back to bed
Someone’s taken my place

Fast forward to the past few weeks. My daughter’s been obsessed with the movie Little Shop of Horrors. She’s been way more into music lately so I’ve been encouraging that by playing more of her music. I had the soundtrack in my collection so have been playing that around the house and in the car. She knows the order of the songs, what each part of the movie was about and now sings most of them. While I was driving today, I actually focused on what she was singing. Here are a few of the lyrics:

Uptown you cater to a million whores.
You disinfect terrazzo on their
bathroom floors.


When I was younger, just a bad little kid,
My mama noticed funny things I did,
Like shootin’ puppies with a B B gun
I’d poison guppies, and when I was done
I’d find a pussycat and bash in its head

It’s amazing how fast they become exposed to the world. I don’t think hiding/banning these things is the right thing to do so I’ll be sure to start having actually conversations with her about the things she’s singing. There will be lots of conversations in the future about men like Steve Martin’s character that exist in the world. For tonight though, I’ll just keep enjoying the fact she thinks some ginormous plants eat mean people.

I was playing with playdoh tonight with my daughter. I was making flat pieces and she was cutting them in ½ with a scissor. I found myself saying, “you’re cutting it in half and making 2 pieces.” So then I tried to explain fractions. I was thinking to myself that when you divide fractions there’s an inverse that happens and then you multiply and it’s really simple in my head. But I had no idea how to explain this or what it really meant.

So of course I did some research on dividing fractions.

I was a math minor in college. I can tell you about Fibonacci numbers but I can’t tell you the reason three “1/6th slices” fit into a “1/2 slice” of pizza? Fascinating.

It was nice to actually read up on something so simple that I took for granted. I’m looking forward to relearning core principles of my education when she starts Kindergarten next year.

I recently took the day off and planned a great day with my daughter. We had planned to go to the aquarium, have some lunch and then go to an indoor playground (make sure you read this whole article if you plan on going). I did some online searching and found a place that was between the aquarium and our house. Sounds great.

Fast forward to after lunch. It was borderline nap-time but the excitement of the indoor playground certainly kept my daughter up. Plus it was only about 2 miles from where we stopped for lunch. So I pull into the suburban strip mall to the colorful sign of Klimbing Kidz. Drive towards it and then see the sign – For Lease. There might as well been a moose outside saying, “Sorry folks, park’s closed.

Over the next 4 seconds I felt ever sort of negative emotion. I was pissed off because their website mentioned nothing of being closed, I felt horrible because I set my daughter up to be majorly disappointed, I felt angry with myself for not calling them first (we’ve reached a point where we just trust a website…why shouldn’t we?).

Then I heard the voice from the back, “Daddy, are we here.”

I felt awful.

I delivered the bad news that the store was closed. To a 3 year old, this was the end of the world and she of course had a complete meltdown. Part of that was her being tired and after about 10 minutes of driving, she passed out.

In all, we had a great day and I didn’t let this one minor hiccup ruin it. I certainly learned my lesson and will make more of a habit to call places first. Guess there are still things you really can’t trust until you talk to someone in person. I trusted other people with my daughters feelings a bit too much.

While I didn’t exactly drive across the country to find that the place was closed, in that moment of discovery, I felt just as disappointed for my daughter as Clark W. Griswold felt for his family. Has anything like this happened to you?

The LoraxThe Lorax by Dr. Seuss is a great story that teaches values about pollution, the environment and its abuses.  The faceless narrator of the story puffed on a ginormous cigar for most of the story.  Something that certainly shows how times are different today than in 1971.

Recently I was returning on a flight from Chicago and was listening to the flight attendant safety speech.  I was particularly interested in how much time they devote to telling the passengers that there is no smoking on the flight and that tampering with the smoke detectors in the lavatories is a federal offense punishable by blah, blah, blah.  Smoking in public places, at least in the United States, is something that’s becoming more and more scarce.  In 2010, I would say it’s more common to not be able to smoke in public places. Isn’t it about time that the messaging changes?  Doesn’t it make more sense in time and resources to say you can smoke in the few remaining places you can smoke?

There’s a lot of noise in the world and rules need to be shorter and sweeter.  Cut to the point and lets move on.  We can certainly start with some of the things that have been done for 10+ years, no?  How about the things that nobody pays attention to?

  • No smoking in public places
  • Software terms of use
  • Please consider the environment before printing this email
  • Tags on pillows that aren’t to be removed under penalty of law

We do so many things on autopilot. Sure, once upon a time there was a valid reason.  How about we start questioning why we do things once in a while?  Stop doing what everyone else does.   How many times are you driving at 1am and sitting at a red light and there’s nobody to be seen in any direction?  Can’t the majority of traffic lights be alternate flashing yellow & red after a certain time at night?  I bet it would cut down on pollution and make people less frustrated on late night drives.

What things would you like to see changed?

The Grinch Grinches The Cat In The HatMy daughter’s been doing quite well with Hanukkah this year. I’ve been pretty good about getting her things that aren’t just junk and trying to figure out something where she’s able to learn something. Quite often the things she likes to do or play with are really simple and it’s more about our imagination. The other day we made a parrot out of a paper towel roll, construction paper, tape, buttons and what was its beak? Yep, a large macaroni shell. Really great fun.

Before she went to bed tonight, we watched The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat. It’s so easy to take for granted the great fortunes we have in the world. Over the past few years, I’ve come to appreciate the simple things in the world much more than in the past. I’m still working on it but I’m proud of where I am in that process. I’d certainly say my daughter has been a huge factor in my discovery. In my wallet, I carry around a fortune from a fortune cookie that can’t be more truthful:

The most important things in life aren’t things

At work, we sponsor a holiday donation program through New York Cares called Winter Wishes and I’ve been participating in it for the past several years. Tonight I was able to order a gift for two 5 year old boys. They asked for a remote control Hummer and a Bumble Bee Transformer mask. Well boys, this year you’ll be getting your holiday wishes. I’ll be sure to try and get my daughter into more charitable ways.

Here are some articles about helping kids with kindness:

Do you donate any of your time or money during the holiday season?

Go, Dog, GoI picked up some books for my daughter (Happy Hanukkah to all those who celebrate) and one of them was Go, Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman.   Soon as she opened them, she wanted to sit in my lap and have me read to her.  A request that I’ll always make time for. When I opened the first page, I saw the dog on roller skates and in an instant I had some really weird déjà vu moment.  It was the most familiar picture in the world but I couldn’t place where it’s from.  I actually felt each page I read to my daughter.  Where was I when that image was burned into my mind?

It got me thinking how important memories are to us and how they hit us at the craziest times.  Anything can trigger them.  A smell, a random Facebook friend request or reading to a child.  As a child of the 80′s, my memories aren’t backed up by much, though.  Some photos here and there but for the most part, they are just that – Memories.

There’s a great Albert Einstein anecdote about never having to memorize anything you can look up.  It’s said that he said in doing so it’s wasting his brain capacity for something more meaningful.

“Memory is deceptive because it is colored by today’s events.” Albert Einstein

With pictures, videos, blogs, tweets and Facebook walls being so prevalent, how much will that impact kids years from now?  Will the life that we remember be the same as those that kids today remember?  Will their brains have more capacity for something else?  Will all this digital content of their lives change their memories?

Here are some interesting articles about our memories:

Would love to hear what you think!

Five little speckled frogsThis past weekend, my daughter was singing a song but I wasn’t sure what it was.  I must say though that it was the most adorable sounding rhyme ever to come out of her mouth.  So in about 1/3 of a second, Google was able to tell me it was Five Little Speckled Frogs (book or song).

Of course I was quite excited to been able to find it and learned something about my daughter.  I was thinking that we really do have access to anything – anytime and anywhere.  While I’m certainly very skilled at finding anything that exists online (it’s been my world for the better part of 17 years), I’m still amazed everyday at the growth of information out there.  People like you and me hemorrhaging information that’s being saved, commented on, indexed, sliced and … ok I’m stopping myself before I actually say the rest of that statement.

Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003 – Eric Schmidt, Google

With all this information out there, it’s so easy to be completely sidetracked at anytime.  It’s very easy to push people aside because you have to check something RIGHT NOW!  With the right focus though, there’s really no stopping the amount of things you can learn.  Most importantly though, it really gives us a huge opportunity to better connect with children.  I’m really happy to know that I was able to connect in some way with my daughter even though I wasn’t with her at that moment.  I really look forward to going through the education system again as she grows up.

Here are some great articles about information overload and distractions:

How do you use information to better connect with children?  Do you have struggles with disconnecting from online?

Green Eggs and HamGreen Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss is a staple in any house with children.  There are several great lessons in the book and today I’m going to talk about making excuses.  As today is the day before Thanksgiving, I asked my three year old daughter if she’s all ready to eat lots of turkey tomorrow.  She replied convincingly, “little girls don’t eat turkey.”

Obviously, little girls eat turkey but this got me thinking about how many times we say little white lies that we decide aren’t harmful as an excuse.  Now, my daughter was completely confident in how she delivered this message just as the unnamed character in Green Eggs and Ham professed he didn’t like green eggs and ham.  In this particular case, I knew her statement to not be true.  How many times do we confidently say made up things and think the other person doesn’t know any better?  In some cases the other person doesn’t know better which is how rumors start.

Your boss asks you to do something and quite frankly you would rather jam a letter opener in your eye.  So what do you say? Sure thing, I’d be glad to do that!

You get a gift that might be the most horrific thing you’ve ever seen.  So what do you say?  Thanks, this is really great!

Are those lies?  Fabrications?  Good ‘ol ass-kissing?  Cop outs?

While we all say these things at different times, the way my daughter said it really got me thinking about the meaning behind it.

These articles offer some interesting reading about telling lies:

Do you have rules for yourself to justify when telling a lie is OK?

Seuss Celebration (The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat / The Cat in the Hat/ Green Eggs and Ham / The Lorax)I’m a subscriber to Comcast cable who recently re-branded it’s product line as Xfinity.  I haven’t been the biggest fan of Comcast over the years but this latest upgrade is much welcomed.  I think one of the best things they did was rebuild the online tv listings grid as well as integrate this with my DVR.  So now I’m able to set my recordings from the browser or iPhone app.  Yes, I realize other providers have offered this for years but today, I’m excited for it.

I was just searching for some things to record for my daughter and came across Dr. Seuss on the Loose and Dr. Seuss’ the Lorax.  Looking forward to watching those with her after December 1st.

In a previous blog post, I discussed how I’d prefer to talk to a human on the phone rather than an automated system.  As I was adding Dr. Seuss to my DVR, I was thinking how much better of a process this was from the previous version.  Using the remote control to scroll through letters.  You can almost hear the annoying sound as if it was someone trying to use a rotary phone – S…tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

I’ve been involved in Internet technology since 1993.  Hard to believe it’s been 17 years.  It’s certainly my prefered way to do things.  I wonder what it will be like for my 3 year old daughter when she gets to high school.  Her life will certainly be much more heavily influenced by technology than mine.  So much discussion and debate now about how texting and social networks have completely changed communication patterns and our brains.  Is it destroying our already short attention spans?

Here are some good articles about the social impact technology has on kids:

What do you think will be different about kids in high school 10 years from now?  How do you moderate your use of technology?

I Can Draw It Myself I Can Draw It Myself by Dr Seuss is a coloring book that encourages children to draw their big something.  I was thinking today how independent my daughter is and always exploring things on her own.  It reminded my of a time when she was first able to express herself while trying to do something on her own.  It’s really easy to try and do things for others.  It’s quicker, easier and often less frustrating.  Sometimes we jump to be over protective.  That won’t teach a child self-confidence though.  On this particular day, we were at the top of the stairs and ready to walk down.  She kept saying – self – and I asked her if she wanted to do this by herself.  She nodded yes with a giant, confident smile.

So I positioned myself to walk next to her so my leg was available for her to hold onto. She was able to walk down the stairs under her own march, yet she was safe enough not to go tumbling down. She held onto my leg for support, not my hand. It wasn’t about her doing it on her own. It was about giving her the confidence that she can do it her own way – even if she still need help. That lesson was that just because someone needs support, it doesn’t have to be pushed into their face that they need it. Support can be covert and that builds confidence in the person that needs it.  It makes it about themselves so they own what they’re doing.

Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today.  Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime — Author Unknown

We normally have really good intentions when wanting to help.  In doing so though, we often solve problems for someone and not necessarily help them come up with the answers on their own.  We essentially own their problem for them.  There are lots of techniques to help people solve their own problems while being very supportive in the process.  Here are some articles about building confidence in solving problems:

Do you find yourself being one to jump into solving a problem when asked or do you help someone solve their own problem?   What ways do you show support in others so they own their problems?