Things we tell our children

Recently, a friend (whom we love dearly) posted an article on child-raising called 'The Secret Cost of Shame' .  The authors of the article suggest that many parents are creating thick ridges of emotional scar tissue in their children by using words like 'naughty' or using 'moralizing' statements such as 'Good little children don't act that way'.  Or my favorite example: 

A three-year-old who defies her mother by refusing to pack up her toys - after being told to do so repeatedly - may be attempting to forge a separate and distinct self-identity.

OK. But the new self-identity is headed for a sore butt. 

Now, I remember from the parenting manual you get when you take the baby home from the hospital that there are lines you don't cross. It's inappropriate, for example, to scream 'OH MY GOD YOU GOT IT WRONG, YOU LITTLE SATAN MONKEY' in the grocery store when your child fetches the 1% milk instead of the 2% you had clearly  asked for. What? You didn't get a manual? You have to ask before you leave, you know. They don't hand them out, otherwise. 

But these authors would be horrified if they heard some of the age-based, moralizing, competency-expectations that are uttered in our house. No doubt they would want to lead me through a firm-but-non-shaming conversation.

Here are a few things we've told our kids: 

  • I didn't call you 'turtle.' I called you 'turd-le.' As in: 'a small turd.'  
  • You can pay the electric bill, or you can pick the dog crap up from the yard. Your choice.
  • No, I won't buy you a horse. 
  • It's slightly more awkward to make fun of  you when you're in the room. 
  • Moving cinderblocks builds character.  
  • One of you is our favorite. You have to guess.
  • No, I won't buy you a horse. 
  • Popcorn comes from chicken poop. You can ask your teacher
  • We can't miss you 'til you leave. 
  • We had them remove the monkey tail before we took you home from the hospital. The doctor said the scar should be 'hardly noticeable' 
  • It's lucky to eat the pig skin with a hair still in it.  
  • I didn't ask who started it. I'm telling you how it will end. 
  • No, I won't buy you a horse. 
  • That's a great story. You should save that story up. Never tell it again. Wait until you have children of your own. Then pass it on.  
  • Yes. I will buy you a horse. ... HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. That was a good one. Did you see what I just did there? No, I will not buy you a horse. 
  • Stacking firewood is old-timey fun. It is now mandatory fun time.  

As parents, it's our responsibility to make sure that they have really good stories to tell when they get to therapy. 



Right now, we've got another two chords worth of stories waiting for in the back yard.

It's been a long few days at work. We've finally launched a new version of our website, representing thousands of man hours of effort, creating a whole new site full of scientific content, protocols and products to help molecular biologists find the reagents necessary to snip DNA up into little bitty pieces, study it, put it back together again, and sequence it into long, complicated genome structures that tell us more about who we are. Plus: hey! a cool shopping cart!

We're also in the middle of selecting a brand new ERP platform, which - if you're anywhere close to a manufacturing or other large organization - is a Big Hairy Project.  We're working with a set of research labs to create a new automated workflow to take data from several instruments and turn it into analyzable data on amplified DNA purity & concentration. And we're taking our commercial software and interfacing it with a new kind of freezer that acts like a combination mini-bar & coke machine, except instead of Dr. Pepper, you can get yourself your favorite flavor of polymerase on demand. 

It's all pretty wild stuff, and an exciting time for me and the team trying to connect and coordinate all these pieces together, and make it look easy like a good IT group can do. 

I've been getting into the office pretty early, and getting home well after the sun goes away, but you know, this is the kind of thing that gets you excited about your contribution, and makes you feel pretty special. 

When I got home this evening, my ten year old daughter (still lovingly referred to as 'Critter' around here), asked me if I could help her finish her chore. 

I should back up. 

When the Critter irritates us or looks a trifle bored, we reach into our standard parenting bag of tricks to keep her productively occupied. Sometimes she moves cinderblocks around (we had a few left out from the autumn pig roast). Sometimes, she gets to clean out the nesting boxes in the chicken coop. If all other inspiration fails, she is sent to pick up the dog's poop from the yard, which both cleans up the lawn, and gives us some pretty good deer deterrent to spread around the garden. 



Our dog is pretty big. She poops a lot. 

So this evening after dinner, the Critter asked me if I could help her with her chore. She explained that she had filled up the bucket with so much St. Bernard poop that she was no longer able to lift it by herself. And it's probably going to snow tomorrow.

So, after a longer than normal day (weeks) launching a new website that will process literally millions of dollars of transactions, enabling the breath-taking discovery of the fundamental building blocks of life, and mounting a touchscreen onto your average stand-alone Kenmore appliance in order to transform it into a freezer-sized iTunes eCommerce app, I get to stumble around my yard in the dark with a flashlight looking for a rubber bucket full of frozen dog shit, so I can find a place to dump in the woods. 

Big picture, it's all probably good for my pride.  But it sure as hell is hard to soar with the eagles when there's a trug full of frozen St. Bernard crap waiting in the dark with your name on it. 

Need to keep yourself grounded? I have a ten year old you can borrow...