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How Do You Raise a One-Armed Boomerang?

When I was 18, my parents asked me what I wanted for graduation. I thought and pondered, pondered and thought. What I really wanted, above all else, was my freedom. I didn’t want to live at home anymore, my only issue was money, I didn’t have any. I devised a plan and presentation, complete with notes and figures. For graduation, I told my parents, I wanted to move out of the house. I would agree to take a class at the local college, work nights to cover my cost of living, if they would fit the bill for the apartment. Knowing that I’d be attending the University of Kansas in Lawrence after the summer, I figured this would be a great “test-run” of the college life. I even called around and found a local complex allowing for 3 month leases. After reviewing my proposal, my parents agreed, and the lease was signed.

That summer and the “Party Apartment” (as it became known) were on my mind when I heard about the “Rising Share of Young Adults living in Their Parents Home“. Apparently, at the end of 2012, 36% of young adults age 18-31 lived with their parents…36%! They are commonly called Boomerang Kids. Sent out of the house for a short while, only to return, like a boomerang, years later. That’s an amazing statistic. As a parent, it’s scary thought. I have three boys, Henry, Charlie & Max, ages 7, 4 & 1. How do I raise three One-Armed Boomerangs that fly straight through life, never making that u-turn back to my basement?

No child dreams of growing up and living with their parents. And, of course, there are situations when living at home, or needing help from a parent is the only choice. I’ve leaned on my parents plenty. But how do I raise my boys to value responsibility?

I’ve heard it said, from parent to child, “Do as I say, not as I do”. I verbalize how I want my boys to act. “Do your homework,” “Be nice to your friends,” “Clean up your room,” “Eat your vegetables.” Each instruction, outwardly describing a behavior I want to instill in my child. Yet, I often wonder, is it my actions, not my words, that are being heard?

Maybe the secret to breaking the arms of my little Boomerangs is to look inward, not speak outward, and examine how closely aligned my actions are to my words. Do I take my work seriously? Am I nice to the people I meet? How healthy do I live my life? Maybe if I want my boys to be disciplined, healthy, and keep a clean room, I should demonstrate constraint, eat right and take care of my belongings. Want a child to be good with money? Ask yourself, “How good am I with dollars and cents?” Want a child to listen, do less talking. Want a child less dependent on you, become less dependent on others. (See: Parents, Grand) Sure, it’s possible to live a life out of balance, only to see your own child choose a life in contrast to your own, but more often than not, it won’t happen.

The most important attribute I can demonstrate is the desire to become better and grow. I am not a not perfect parent, perfect son, perfect boss, but I can be better. Working on ourselves might be this life’s greatest challenge. Yet, it’s a choice, and it’s a behavior that will be learned by my children, and that’s a great thing. Because if I do nothing else but demonstrate a life-long lust to making myself a better person, and my sons only learn that one teaching, how can I fault myself for who they become?

1996 was a great summer, living in that one-bedroom apartment in West Wichita, working nights at Chili’s, and drinking on a fake ID. I aced that English 101 class and left for college later that summer, never to return. I have my parents to thank for raising this one-armed boomerang. And to my sons Henry, Charlie & Max…I don’t care what your presentation looks like, I’m not renting you an apartment for graduation!

Charlie Goes Skylander Hunting

I didn’t play many video games growing up. I spent my days outside; throwing balls against the house and breaking windows. My next door neighbor, Petey, had all the games. After school, I’d sometimes head over to his house and watch him play his Nintendo. Usually, after a few games, I’d get bored and head back outside. It’s hard to say whether my sons will become “gamers”, like Petey or “outsiders” like me. We own a Wii and the boys have recently become interested in a game called Skylanders. They are hot and cold on the game, it usually depends on the day and whether their friends are outside. But I do know this…my kids LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to watch videos on the Ipad. In particular, they love to watch toy videos.

When I was growing up, we had the JCPenny catalog. Every month or so we’d get this inch-thick book in the mail and I’d go through the toy pages, line by line, soaking up all the new toys and dreaming. I loved imagining that I could only have one toy on each page. I would go back and forth, in my mind, trying to decide which of the Star Wars, Transformers or Thundercat figurines I wanted for Christmas. So I understand my sons infatuation with the YouTube toy videos, it’s like the JCPenny catalog on steroids.

In particular, my boys love a video series called EvanTubeHD. Evan is a 7-year-old boy who does toy reviews of all the latest games. If you’ve got small children, it’s worth a look. You can see it here. The series is very PG and Evan’s father plays a prominate role in the series. My boys can sit down and watch EvanTubeHD for hours. And they are constantly asking me to make a video of them, just like “EvanTubeHD”.

Fast forward to Labor Day, 2013. Charlie, my 4-year-old, has been on a year-long potty training escapade. (Read about how it all started here). Charlie tends to go a few days without accidents, then he’ll “mail it in” for a day and have several potty-in-the-pants moments. In an effort to get Charlie focused, we decided to create a “Potty Challenge”. If Charlie could go seven days without an accident, I’d take him shopping for a new Skylander. As an added bonus, I told him I’d take a video of him and put it on YouTube. It took Charlie some time, but he finally made it seven days without incident. What follows is our first CharlieTubeHD video. Enjoy!

Le Petit Problème

“Daddy?”

“What, Charlie?”

“I need to go potty.”

“Of course you do…we’re late for the doctor, so you’re gonna just have to hold it.”

“But I can’t…I need to go now!”

“We can’t stop, Charlie, just hold it”

“DADDY!, PLEASE!”

The stoplight is red.  My steering wheel knuckles are white. Many miles away and very few minutes to spare lies the doctor’s office.  We had intended to leave 15 minutes earlier, but my wife was late.  Not that it would have mattered.  I was not ready.  Work piling up. Deadlines missed.  Soccer practices, baby’s not sleeping, family in town, medicine not adminstered, work to be completed, laundry to be folded, quality time to be scheduled, red lights staying red and red and red and red…

“Daddy…….Daddy……Daddy?”

“CHARLIE, JUST HOLD IT, GODDAMN IT!”

The intesnity of the scream startled even myself as I thought…”I supose I could have handled that better.”

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Petit Mal Seizures

A few weeks back, my wife told me that she  had begun to see Charlie, my four-year-old son, “space-off” from time to time and she asked if we should be concerned.  Shortly there-after, I saw one of these “space-off” moments for myself.  Basically, Charlie was mid-sentence at the dinner table, stopped, stared off into space for a few seconds, and then was back to normal.  At first, I didn’t think much of it and told Lindsey not to worry.  Charlie has a habit of getting ahead of himself, and I felt this was just an example of his brain working a little “over-time” to catch up with his thoughts.

Of course, these moments did not stop, and Lindsey continued to express concern to me, but since I wasn’t seeing them, I didn’t think much of it.  On Friday (6/28/13) afternoon, I was home from work early and Charlie finally had one of these moments right in front me…Once again, he was mid-sentence, broke it off, (“Daddy, Daddy, for my birthday, can we……………..”) but this time, it lasted for a while, maybe 10-12 seconds.  I knew right then what my wife new six weeks ago…this wasn’t good or normal.

Being the 21st century parents that we are, we Googled it.  The internet in these instances can be both a blessing and curse.  Our minds were filled with all types of crazy scenarios, but the diagnosis that we kept coming back to was a type of epilepsy called “Absence Seizures” (Also known as Petit Mal Seizures).  We called the doctor and they asked us to come in the next day (a Saturday).

Time slowed down, Saturday arrived.  Lindsey and I arranged for a sitter to watch Henry & Max, while Charlie, her and I went to see our pediatrician.  After a brief consultation he told us an EEG was needed and that we would have one scheduled on Monday.  And that was that.

The weekend was tough.  We were filled with all sorts of emotions and feelings.  As an added bonus, Charlie began to complain about a ringing in his ear, telling me at

Charlie 1

one point, “Daddy, my ears don’t work.”  I think Lindsey & I both wanted to learn more, but staying off The Google was a difficult, yet necessary task.  Spending too much time there, when you don’t know the diagnosis, can send you into madness.

Monday arrived and the doctor called first thing in the morning.  The EEG had been scheduled for 9am on Wednesday. And that was that.

The instructions were to keep Charlie up about an hour later the night before and try to wake him up an hour early.  Lindsey and decided that I would take Charlie to the exam while Lindsey stayed home with the other two kids.

I was up early on Wednesday and had Charlie up by 6. We left for the exam around 7.  The morning was unusually mild (mid 60’s) and Charlie needed a sweatshirt to keep warm.  The hardest part was keeping him awake in the car.  We headed to the hospital (about 40 min drive) and found a breakfast place close by.

After a grilled cheese breakfast (I might be Father of the Year), I realized that the appointment was still 30 minutes away.  I found a park close to the hospital and Charlie had a blast exploring the new surroundings.

Charlie 2

The time had finally come to head to the hospital.  The waiting room was filled with toys, kids, and stressed parents.  The eyes in that room is scene I will never forget.  So much sadness.

The wait was not long and soon we were being led to the examination room.

The EEG lasted about an hour and included Charlie sitting on my lap as the nurse (Roslynn) placed about 15 nodes on his head.  Charlie watched a show (“Good Luck Charlie”, you can’t make this stuff up!) on the Disney channel as the lights were dimmed.  The nurse came in and out a few times and Charlie did great.

After the exam, a gentleman named Brad came in, and nervously said, “Hi, Mr. Younger.  We don’t usually do this, but based on the exam results, we thought we should discuss the results with you immediately”.   Charlie, still on my lap, felt like 100lbs and the white walls of the exam room seemed to close in on me…time slowed down and I feared the worst.

Charlie 4

Brad went onto to tell me that since it was the day before the Holiday (July 3rd), and that results of the EEG had shown clear indications of activity, he had called our pediatrician and gotten the OK to share the results with us today.  Further, he informed us that the neurologist had been watching the results in real time in his office and was also consulted.  He had clearly seen indications of “Absence Seizures”, and felt we should know ASAP. 

My heart was racing, but the results were both what we expected and actually were the best results we could hear.  You can learn more about Absence Seizures here: http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/aboutepilepsy/seizures/genconvulsive/absenceseizures/Charlie 5

You can also watch a pretty good video of an example of these seizures here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xE6N0Da8Ce0

Basically, Charlie experiences short seizures many times a day (50-150).  The nurse told me she stopped counting during the exam, but probably had five or six seizures during the thirty minute EEG. They last anywhere between 2-30 seconds and don’t cause any harm to Charlie.  The biggest concern is that he might fall on the stairs or on the playground.  Also, we must watch him in the water, as a brief loss of consciousness may cause issues.

It was a long morning and the sleep deprivation was more than Charlie could handle as he passed out in the car on the way home.

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“Honey, it’s OK, we’re not that late”  My wife said as she gently touched my arm.

I took a deep breath and the stop light finally turned green. 

“Charlie, there’s a QuickTrip up ahead, how about we stop there and you can go potty, sound good?

“Yes…but hurry, I really have to go.”

“Ok, I’ll hurry.  How about this, you look out the window and as soon as you see the QuickTrip sign, yell as loud as you can, just like Daddy did, OK?”

“Ok, Daddy.”

I gassed the Volkswagen Minvan and we raced ahead.

“Do you see the sign?” I asked.

“No.” Charlie quietly replied.

I went faster and we got closer.  I saw the sign in the distance and asked again, “Charlie do you see it now?”

“No.”

I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw Charlie looking intently out the window, holding himself with both hands, while his legs jiggled like butterly wings.  I peered out and saw the QT sign fast approaching.  Pleading now, I asked “Charlie, do you see the sign?”

“No”

Again, I gassed the van, our heads bumped against the headrests, the gas station was close now…”Charle, don’t you see it!”

“Daddy, do you hear me yelling?” Charlie asked.

Puzzled, I responded, “No”.

“Then I can’t see the sign”.

My wife and I smiled as I finally made the turn into the Quicktrip parking lot.  Charlie hopped out and we were off and running to the potty, crisis averted.

A little while later, we were at the doctor’s office (only a couple of minutes late) for Charlie’s check up.  It’s now been 5 weeks since the EEG.  He’s been on medincine and the seizures have almost completly gone away.  The doctor gave Charlie a great report and the prognosis is very good.  The bottom line is that he should grow out of these in a few years time and it does not appear to be turning into anything greater.  This is a small problem and we are truly blessed that it isn’t something more serious.  Even the ringing in his ears has stopped and we’ve got our Charlie back.

These type of events teach you many things.  Most notably, I must remember that all the small problems don’t matter.  What does matter is your kids and your family. Charlie’s clarity of thought refreshes me.  We can and should refuse to listen to the small stresses in this world.  Deadlines are usually self imposed.  The laundry always get done, the red light always turns green.  Being a few minutes late will not impact the outcome.  When the world is pestering us like an overbearing father racing a white mini van towards a Qicktrip, let’s say, “Do you hear me yelling?  No?  Then I can’t see your stresses”.

Thanks for your thoughts, prayers and support.  Now, let’s go Enjoy The Day!

The Birth of Maxwell James – A Diary

Let’s be clear, I’m a very lucky man.

But I always find it interesting that we never seem to remember the important things in life…oh sure, we remember the dates, maybe some particulars, but time clears the mind of many details.  So with the birth of my third boy on the horizon, I decided do a running diary of the day’s events.  I figured, if nothing else, we could look back and remember a few moments from his birth.  I also believe it’s another fact (in a long history of facts), that third borns are the best raised children in the world, and have yielded most of humankind’s most tremendous people…(figured out where I reside in the birth order yet?)

Think about it for a second, like shooting free-throw’s after practice or  golf balls at the range, what on this earth don’t we get better at with practice?  Why should parenting be any different?  We hover like helicopters over the first, over- compensate on the second, by the third, we’ve hit our Parenting Prime…they should call all of us third born’s Goldilock Kids!

So, in an honor of one of my all-time favorite writers, who happens to be an only child, The Sportsguy, I’ve decided to keep a running diary of the birth if my 3rd child, and rewind the action for you today.

Let’s begin

Weds, July 11th, 8:00 pm. My Mom has come in from Alabama to take care of my two boys.  The wife has an appointment to be at the hospital at 8. They’ll start the induction shortly after, with the idea that the baby will come sometime on Thursday, July 12th.

The One & Only John Holmes

8:49pm. At the hospital, wife hooked up to some machines, nurses asking lots of questions, I’m watching Modern Family… One thing they don’t tell you about having small kids? Your tv watching declines considerably. If it’s not a live sporting event, my tv is stuck on Power Rangers or Clifford. With that said, Modern Family is one I continue to watch, or at least try to… just so funny, especially to me, since my family is nothing, but traditional.

Also, they put us in the John Holmes room…apparently this hospital likes its porn stars. They must know something about my son’s “equipment”…

9:48pm. The cynic in me figured we wouldn’t have this baby until tomorrow morning, right when the doc wanted him to come.  I always figured these docs could telegraph a birth like the backup QB throwing into double coverage… But lo and behold, we may be getting started early. There’s lots of talk of effacing and dilating and Jill the Nurse just told me I’d better start drinking the coffee, it could be a long night…Jill’s a hoot…she just told us she doesn’t come to work and NOT celebrate birthday parties…better get ready to get tough!

9:58pm. Contractions getting stronger, might be about time to bring on the ol’ epidural. For those of you that don’t know, I’m one of those small business owners that both Republicans and Democrats like to talk about, especially when it comes to healthcare. Well, Rep or Dem, it doesn’t matter…all I know is I’m paying out-of-pocket (and out the nose) for this whole deal, so I’m thinking…are you allowed to negotiate with the epidural doctor? After my recent car buying episode, I’m yearning for another shot at using my negotiating prowess, or lack there of:) Granted, when the pain is hot and heavy, I’m pretty sure I’d lose on any negotiating.

10:46pm. Well, things have slowed down, maybe my previous cynicism was correct. Might be time to get a little shut-eye.

11:31pm. Nothing tonight, time for sleep.

Thursday, July 12th, 6:02am. Not exactly a Tempur-Pedic night sleep, but not too bad on the ol’ fold-out, or as my buddy Hyleme calls it, The Daddy Couch.

If it looks uncomfortable, it’s because it is…

Somewhat chilly laying next to the vent, but hey, I’m not the pregnant one, right? They drugged the wife up pretty good, so she was out as well. Laying here watching TV, with 6 channels, because apparently Direct TV & Viacom are having a hissy fit over fees. TV or no TV, today seems like a good day to have a child, don’t you think?

If I had to bet, I’d guess we’ll meet our new guy sometime after lunch.

Our “I-came-here-to-celebrate-birthdays” nurse, Jill, goes off in an hour. We’ll miss her…

8:56pm. Breakfast. Time to take a quick trip down to the cafeteria, which is always an overwhelming experience for me… So many options, you can only pick one…don’t screw it up!

Went with a breakfast sandwich, meanwhile, back on the baby front, the doctor came in and apparently kick started the process as contractions are beginning again hot and heavy… got to hand it to these docs, they handle these births like a bowling ball rolling towards the pins with the bumpers up…if something looks to be going in the wrong direction, bang!, a hit on the bumper and the ball gets rolling down the lane towards the pins…

10:22pm. Epidural doc has come and gone, and no, I didn’t try to negotiate with her. The house doc is gonna come in here shortly and re-position the bowling ball, err, break her water. Still looking at an afternoon birth. Meanwhile, what to do for the next 6 hours. My oldest was born on a Sunday on October…lots of football to watch… a Thursday in the middle of July? Catch up on Days of Our Life’s? Re-run of the Tour de France?  Once again, who has the toughest job today?

10:31pm. Water Broken. We’ll stop there, no need for details.

11:46pm. Time to grab some lunch. Nurse Karen seems to think things will “go quickly” now. Been spending the last hour reading up on this Sandusky/Freer investigation. Pretty sick/scary stuff, especially for a guy who’s about to have his third boy. So tragic, so ridiculous that college football has become such a big deal that people (Paterno) feel compelled to suppress their morals to save their teams/jobs. Great article by Jason Whitlock on this… Much evil in this world, much evil.

12:25pm. Must be getting close, they just wheeled in the baby’s bed.

12:50pm. 8cm, whatever that means.

2:11pm. Well, we now have 2 nurses and the room is filled with all types of machines, the wife is having contractions every minute or so, feeling pain even through the epidural. Guessing this wouldn’t be a good time to grab some Starbucks.

2:36pm. The doc has been called.

Maxwell James, 8lbs 2 oz

3:06pm. Maxwell James is born. 8lbs 2 oz, 20.25 inches. He’s got a lot of dark hair, considering I have none and the wife is blond we’ll be taking a closer look at the mailman this week;) the bowling ball has come down for a perfect strike!

3:55pm. As with the two previous, just an amazing experience.  If you’ve ever thought about having kids, I would highly recommend it.  The wife is a real rock star during these things. And this little guy is a miracle.  Make no mistake, I’m a lucky man!

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