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A Journey Through Fatherhood and Parenting

Father of the Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Siblings’

The Chicken Dance

Among all the titles parenthood bares ‘referee’ suits me. More specifically a Hockey ref. I often find myself shouting, “Hey! (A loud ‘hey’ is my whistle), that’s two minutes for high sticking.” Or “Hey! Two minutes for roughing.” Or “Hey! Two minutes for instigating.” Hockey refs are physically and emotionally tough too. Sometimes I’ll take an elbow while breaking up a tousle or get popped with a flying ‘puck’ if I’m not quick enough to move out of the way. Just as a Hockey ref would, I attempt to let the ‘game’ unfold unimpeded, interrupting only when the balance between fair competition and unjust play needs to be defined and resolved. Determining that equivalence is a delicate and dynamic aspect of the job, inaction may bring jeers and boo’s from the ‘spectators’ and exacting unfair punishment may harbor resentment from the ‘players.’

This past week, while at our school districts’ learning center playroom, a mechanical dancing chicken that, of all things, plays the ‘chicken dance’ song sparked a ‘dance’ between Olivia and Hailey. Coincidently this is the same ditty that blares at some point during every NHL game in our town. The toy bird was at the epicenter of the brawl being stretched tug-of-war-like and spun as the girls used gravitational momentum to fling one another off the chicken. Fake feathers were flying everywhere all while its’ tune playing, “da da da da da da da… da da da da da da da… da da da da da da da…daa daa daa daa.” The result of this ugly battle involved screams, laughter, tears, hydrogen peroxide and a few band-aids. Although I think the chicken got the worst of it.

Instinctively, I wanted to jump in between them and stop the fray but when they started giggling and laughing it reminded me of myself when I play Hockey. I’ll be battling for the puck, in the corner, along the boards or in front of the net chuckling and hyperventilaughing the whole time. Some of my teammates find it obnoxious and irritating, they think I’m not competitive enough or serious enough. “It’s not like we’re playing for the Stanley Cup,” is my repartee. I like to play recreational Hockey for several reasons; one, because it’s fun, two, for exercise and three, to healthily alleviate stress.Both my girls have stress in their young lives. It’s true. Olivia is weighted by carrying heavy leadership responsibilities. Hailey lives in the giant shadow of an older sibling whom she must compete for everything with. Not to mention the pressures of daycare, dance lessons, swim lessons and two over baring parents. One reason they bicker and wrestle is to vent their stress.

First born, Olivia is the one who has to figure things out, toys, puzzles, games, rules of conduct and then must be a good role model and teacher to Hailey. Olivia cares about the affections and well being of people close to her, “are you happy daddy?” And when I come home from ‘playing with the other daddies,’ she meticulously scans my body for injuries, “do you get any boo-boo’s daddy?”

Being the second child Hailey has scrapped for everything since conception and has dealt with; a womb that had just been vacated, stained bottles, collapsed nipples, frayed clothes that hadn’t even been stored, worn toys with failing batteries, soggy edged books, half-soled shoes, even her teachers at preschool are hand-me downs. She is a competitor, “watch dis (this) daddy!” Probably doesn’t help when Kim and I say things like, “first one inside the car wins!”

Back to the crazy dancing chicken: Looking-on, I realized they weren’t fighting over the toy; this is something they always do. They argue and grapple over everything and nothing. It could be an object or a word or an idea, it doesn’t mater. Digging deeper I couldn’t help but think maybe they constantly fight to gain Kim’s and my attention. This is probably true but there seems to be something more involved going on between them and I never saw it until ‘the chicken dance,’ Olivia and Hailey fight because they trust one another with their emotions and feelings; letting it all out, battling, arguing, laughing and crying in the same instant without trepidation, assurance that they truly love each other.

Originally posted on BabyCenter.com 11/02/06


Sibling Protection

A spontaneous bonding experience for Olivia and Hailey placed me in an awkward and morally conflicting situation. It all went down on ‘Daddy Day’ at our local public library. The newly remodeled children’s wing was completely packed. The rainy day drew quite a crowd and the ‘reading castle’ appeared more like the mall playground than a quiet place for children to indulge in book perusing. To avoid the vigorous mass of little bodies I had quickly devised a plan for each girl to find a book for me and I would read aloud to them. They each acquired a book without hesitation. We found a cozy corner, a couple of big round rainbow-colored pillows to settle into and all was going well for about three pages of the first book, however the loud chattering and all the action was just too distracting for them. So they set off on a glorious campaign to conquer the castle.


Ten seconds later, my girls were completely oblivious to my existence. So I decided to reserve a book for myself through the library’s computer catalogue, only twenty feet from the castle. Five minutes pass and suddenly my daddy radar went off, code red. I overhear Olivia’s bossy voice “No, you can’t come up here!” I assumed she was talking to Hailey. I downgraded my alert status to orange. Olivia was standing at the top tower of the multi-level apparatus. I could see her through the plexiglas window but I couldn’t see Hailey. Olivia continued to shout, “I said no. You! Can’t! Come! Up! Here!” Time for a daddy intervention. My mind raced for the right thing to say, ‘Olivia the castle is for everyone to share’ was the best I could think of. As I approached the freshly painted faux-stone palace I saw that Olivia was not yelling at Hailey but rather a young boy. I was somewhat confused; confronting a stranger with such nastiness was completely out of character for Olivia. The wiry boy was a bit taller than Olivia I guessed him to be about three maybe three and a half years old. I had noticed him and his older brother, probably six-ish, when we first arrived at the library. The two brothers were there with a young Russian nanny, who at the time of the altercation was indulged in a hair brushing from big brother. She was teaching big brother the proper technique. Her heavy ascent was a dead giveaway of her place of origin. She was clueless and aloof in her duty to the young three year old.


The poor little guy, he whimpered, “bbbut I wwwant too” and as I moved closer, I could see Olivia obstructing his passage to the top level of the castle. For me to climb-up inside the play fortress and get in between them was impossible, the custom crafted play castle was definitely designed for tykes. I was just about to give the top level plexiglas window a solid tap to get Olivia’s attention when the little boy gave up and turned away. But Olivia was not finished with her maliciousness, she followed him down level by level, soon I saw the little guy come down the exit slide on the other side of the citadel. Olivia flew out right behind him and blasted him with her feet. The two of them start jawing at each other as I made my way over to them. “You kicked me!” The little boy finally stood up for himself. Olivia quickly shouted back, “No I didn’t!” Just as I’m about to put the Vulcan-death-grip on her, out of nowhere, Hailey comes at the boy fists clenched with the velocity and quickness of a bolt of lightning, striking the unsuspecting little guy right in the gut. He doubled over, stumbled, almost fell down and then ran to the safety of his nanny and big brother.


Honestly, and this was my moral dilemma, I wanted to congratulate Hailey for her bravado and rushing-in to defend her sister. It took me a few seconds to take in the whole situation. The boy was crying and shaking while hugging his nanny, so distraught he couldn’t verbalize what happened. Hailey, with steely confidence and fists still tightly clenched had her eyes locked on the young boy waiting for any retaliation. Olivia was indifferent to what had just transpired or rather tried to look innocent. I didn’t congratulate. I didn’t scold. I simply pulled them into a corner and said that it was time to settle down and take a break. I told Olivia that I saw what she did and stressed the importance of, “no kicking and you hurt that little boy.” I also calmly explained to Hailey “no hitting.” I gave them both a warning and that any more hitting, kicking, pushing, and/or shouting would result in us having to leave the library.


After a minute of rest and reflection, they were very good for the duration of our library visit. They sketched with the library’s miniature golf-scorecard sized pencils, they searched for interesting books and they even sat down with me for a whole book reading. Olivia had found two Disney Princess books, carried them along with her library card up to the librarian’s desk and check-out. Hailey got her own card made and borrowed two Sesame Streetbooks. I noticed that the victimized boy eventually calmed down and had kept his distance form my girls. Can you blame him? So I assumed he was physically ok.


Even now as I write this, the ethical question still rolls around in my head; Is it wrong for me to feel proud of Hailey for sticking up for her sister the way she did? Obviously I don’t want to encourage her hitting little defenseless strangers, but I really wanted to reward her for protecting and defending her sister.


Originally Posted on BabyCenter, 09/09/06