Of letter spacing and love: why the little things matter

Of letter spacing and love: why little things matterMichael and Ashley will be having their first baby in a few weeks. Like anyone in their position, they’re dealing with all anxieties that come with that event. Michael, for his part, has been concerned with kerning.

Kerning is a typography term that relates to the space between letters. Most of the time, if it’s done well, you don’t really notice it. Things (words, signs, sentences) just look right; like they belong together. When kerning is bad, though, it’s really bad. Things look clunky, unkempt, and careless.

Michael, as a programmer who works with designers, knows kerning is important, but isn’t all that comfortable making the call himself. So he sent a picture to all the designers and asked for help to get the kerning right on the letters he’s hanging on the wall of the nursery. He wants “ELLIE” to look just right.

We have all been coached to spend a lot of time and energy making the big decisions, and they are certainly important. And you might think that there are other things– more important things– that Michael should be focusing on right now. But the truth is, he knows these little things matter.

Parenting, it turns out, isn’t so much about the big things that need to be decided and done. Rather, it’s all about the little things. How you react when she asks to sit on your lap and read a book. What you say when you’re frustrated from driving in snarled traffic. How you answer when she asks for something she really wants, but doesn’t need. And maybe most importantly, how you treat her mother; both when you’re happy and when you’re not.

It’s in these little things that our children learn to get along with each other. It’s how they learn to cope with things when they don’t go quite as well as they’d hoped. In these little things, our little ones find out that words can hurt, but they also heal. It’s how they learn to forgive and to put the needs of others before themselves. These little things, without a doubt, are how they learn to love, along with countless multitudes of other things.

I often hear parenting experts talk about teaching moments as if they only come along every so often. They couldn’t be more wrong… These moments happen every minute of every day, whether you’re aware of it or not. Kids watch. They listen. They learn. The good, the bad, and the ugly, all together, all the time.

So with a few weeks left until delivery, Michael busies himself with letter spacing. There may be many reasons for this, but it isn’t trivial. Instead, it shows that Michael has already learned one the key lessons of being a parent: Little things matter. A lot.

Ellie, when she gets here, will be in good hands.

Love that dog… and that boy

Love That Dog

Love That Dog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Jack loves to read; always has. Last night he shared with me his latest ‘favorite’ story, a delightful little book called Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. It is, appropriately, the story of a boy named Jack, his dog, his teacher, and – eventually – his words. Creech describes it like this:

The story develops through Jack’s responses to his teacher, Miss Stretchberry, over the course of a school year. At first, his responses are short and cranky: “I don’t want to” and “I tried. Can’t do it. Brain’s empty.” But as his teacher feeds him inspiration, Jack finds that he has a lot to say and he finds ways to say it.

Jack is both stubborn and warm-hearted, and he can be both serious and funny. Although he hates poetry at first, he begins to find poems that inspire him. All year long, he is trying to find a way to talk about his beloved dog, Sky, and the poems his teacher offers him eventually give him a way to do that.

In the book, Jack becomes especially enamored by the poem “Love That Boy” written by Walter Dean Myers. Ultimately, it is this work that inspires Jack to tell the whole story of his dog, Sky.

When I walked in the door last night, Jack’s first request was for the sequel to Love That Dog, the appropriately-named Hate That Cat.

I love that Jack loves to read. I’ll be absolutely thrilled when he decides he also wants to write.

Here is “Love That Boy” in full:

Love that boy,
like a rabbit loves to run
I said I love that boy
like a rabbit loves to run
Love to call him in the morning
love to call him
“Hey there, son!”

He walk like his Grandpa,
Grins like his Uncle Ben.
I said he walk like his Grandpa,
And grins like his Uncle Ben.
Grins when he’s happy,
When he sad, he grins again.

His mama like to hold him,
Like to feed him cherry pie.
I said his mama like to hold him.
Like to feed him that cherry pie.
She can have him now,
I’ll get him by and by

He got long roads to walk down
Before the setting sun.
I said he got a long, long road to walk down
Before the setting sun.
He’ll be a long stride walker,
And a good man before he done.
Walter Dean Myers

Caine’s Arcade: Recognizing the incredible potential of great imagination

Every once in a while I come across a story where all the planets align, the good people come out on top, and I’m afforded an opportunity to sit back and truly appreciate how powerful a tool the Internet can be. This is one of those stories.

The summary is this: a 9-year-old boy named Caine built an elaborate arcade out of cardboard boxes at his father’s auto parts store. And then he waited for the customers. Eventually, one showed up. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll let you watch this video and see how it unfolds.

One final thought: There is power, to be sure, in this new inter-connected world. But it pales in comparison to the power of a great imagination.

I’d love to hear what you think…

[Note: I first saw this video about 5pm today. At the time, Caine’s crowd-sourced scholarship fund was at $88,000. Five hours later, it’s grown to nearly $103,000. Further proof, I think, that creativity still matters. I tip my hat to Nirvan Mullick for recognizing a great story when he saw it and thank him warmly for telling it. Here’s a link to Caine’s Arcade’s Facebook page.]

 

Sea turtle nests protected by state and federal law

English: Legal posting related to sea turtles ...

Image via Wikipedia

There are signs common in Florida and other coastal areas warning of potential fines and imprisonment for various offenses related to endangered sea turtles and their nests. The provisions are fairly specific yet wide-ranging.

Florida state law provides protection against taking, possessing, disturbing, mutilating, destroying or causing to be destroyed, selling or offering for sale, transferring, molesting, or harassing any marine turtle or its nest or eggs at any time.

Federal law provides even greater protection (and criminal penalties as severe as $100,000 and a year in prison) if you “take, harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, or capture any marine turtle, turtle nest, and/or eggs, or attempt to engage in any such conduct.”

Obviously, marine turtles are still on the endangered species list, so they are afforded these protections. We can all easily endorse such a law, recognizing the inherent value of the life of a sea turtle — even realizing that the life in the eggs is something that should be given the same level of protection.

Yesterday was the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. For nearly 40 years, it’s been legal to conduct abortions in the United States.

I think it’s unfortunate that we place more value on the unborn life of a marine turtle than the unborn life of a human.

Is the ‘parenting bargain’ worth it?

I was thinking this morning that the human reproductive process offers an odd bargain: a few moments of pleasure followed by several months of discomfort, culminating in an event that– for most people– requires hospitalization.

So it is with parenting: brief flashes of delight surrounded by extended periods of pain, suffering and repetition. It often seems that the role we play as parents could be accurately assumed by a tape recorder, since we spend the majority of our time repeating ourselves (“brush your teeth, brush your teeth, brush your teeth”) hoping for a glimmering moment of gratification (“You already brushed your teeth? That’s awesome!”) Except, of course, for those things you really don’t want them to learn. I can tell them a thousand times to pick up their socks without making an impression at all, but let one careless utterance escape that includes a word they shouldn’t repeat and all you’ll hear is “damn, damn, damn, damn…” If you think this can’t possibly be true, picture in your mind my 4-year-old son, sitting at the kitchen table, who looks up at me and says, “Dad, these apples are damn good!”

Kids– and everything about raising them– can be the most frustrating aspect of our lives. And most of us put ourselves in this position willingly! It’s as if someone offered you a choice: Would you rather live with this person that you’ve chosen (after a protracted and difficult search), have quite a bit of free time, extra income, and the freedom to do as you please with your vacation time for the rest of your lives, or… none of the above?

Parents, in an act that seems to defy all logic, willingly choose the latter. And for what? That smile on a baby’s face that is reserved only for you? Those hugs when a toddler wraps his arms and legs around you as if he’ll never let go? Those moments when she lays her head on your shoulder and sleeps, with no concern for anything else in the world, completely at ease in your arms and assured of her safety? That instant of discovery when you see them realize something, completely on their own, for the first time? When all the planets and stars align and someone you know, without prompting, says something like, “She’s a great kid” about one of yours?

Well, yes, actually. Exactly that, all of that, and more. While my kids aren’t quite old enough yet to break my heart, I know those days are coming. But I welcome them, just as I welcome each of the daily struggles and turmoil, because they are all the essence of parenting, bracketed by those other moments of perfection that make it all worthwhile. Can a simple smile or a hug or a statement like “I love you, Daddy” really be worth suffering all those other moments?

Absolutely. I’d choose door number two every time.