Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Trying not to Raise a Kardashian

                                                            Nothing but sweetness, right?

How do you ensure your kid grows up to be a “nice” person?

It is not a rhetorical question – I hope you will give me your best advice.

My children are very different. Sydney is loud, outgoing, brash. Tyson is reserved, quiet, maybe even a little timid.

We met the Easter Bunny last weekend. Sydney ran to him and hugged him like he was her best friend. Tyson clung to my legs.

A neighbor whom we don’t know walked her dog by our house the other day. Sydney ran to the end of the driveway and started a conversation with her like they were old friends.

Tyson clung to my legs.

Their personalities, so far, are completely different. They are very stereotypical: Sydney is verbal and very smart with vocabulary. Tyson is quiet but is much better than his sister at math, puzzles and similar activities.

Their differences are evident in other ways, too, and that is where I am concerned. Take Christmas for example. Sydney tore through her presents like the Tasmanian Devil. As soon as she had the wrapping off one, she was reaching for another.

Tyson still had unopened toys weeks later. If he opened something he liked, he would play with it for the rest of the day, not worried about what he could have, but content with what he had.

You see where I am going here?

I have said it many times before: If someone were to offer Tyson a balloon, he would ask for one for his sister. He is THAT nice and thoughtful.

On the other hand, if Sydney saw someone offer Tyson a balloon, she would run up and steal it for herself.

She is THAT kind of kid.

This isn’t a learned behavior. Some of it might be from being the first born and having all the attention for nearly two years, but I think she was born like this.

Ask Tyson to help clean the room, he is on it. Ask Sydney to help and you get three hours of bargaining and procrastinating and outright defiance.

All I have to do to get Tyson to go to bed is set my phone timer to go off, no matter what time it is. He knows that when the timer goes off, he has to go to bed and he starts heading that way.

The timer is like the bell at a boxing match for Sydney. Time to start the verbal sparring in order to squeeze in another hour or so of play time. She comes out jabbing like Muhammad Ali.

Before you say, “You can’t let her get away with these things,” understand that I know that and I don’t. But my point is, I want her to act the right way without the threat, or distribution, of punishment.

Also, I have known kids who grew up in very strict environments, where they were afraid to step out of line or challenge their parents on anything. Sometimes that doesn’t work out so well, either. I’m not trying to turn my child into a submissive robot or someone who rebels with drugs or other felonious behavior to deal with overbearing parents.

She’ll get her fair share of groundings, or worse. But I don’t believe I can punish someone into being a good person. She has to come into that on her own.
More than once, my wife and I have looked at each other and asked, “How do we make her understand how important this is?”

I had friends visiting this summer and they have two older children who are respectful and very well behaved. I asked my buddy how he and his wife did it, and his answer was vague. Really, they simply tried to steer their children between right and wrong and hoped for the best. So far, it has worked. Or they just got lucky. Or both.

I asked another friend the same thing a few weekends ago. He and his wife have raised three daughters who are all on their own and doing very well as adults. His answer was much the same.

But how much of it is luck? I know siblings who grew up in the same environment. One is an empathetic soul who leads a successful life, while the other is a pathological liar who scams everyone in their path.

Some of it has to be the luck of the draw, right?
I spend a great deal of time trying to keep my kids safe. Sydney is so oblivious, she wouldn’t see a car coming until the Ford emblem was implanted on her head. Tyson would play football on our flight of stairs if I let him. They’d both put coins or balls or other choke-able items in their mouth if we weren’t watching them 24/7.

Safety is always the number one concern. It won’t change as they get older. I’ll worry about them experimenting with drugs or driving drunk or hanging out with some knucklehead who thinks Interstate 71 is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A lot of energy is spent on keeping them safe. Then, you worry about their intellect and how smart they might become. You spend hours reading books to them, playing online learning games and ensuring they are watching educational TV.

At some point, I am sapped of parental energy. Yet, there is still a mountain to climb: turning your kid into a “nice” person. Someone who respects others, cares about others and is not as self-absorbed as Kim Kardashian.

But then again, Kim’s doing ok. Maybe the selfie-centric way of life is the way of the future?

Screech!!!! Hold the phone. Pardon my interruption!

While I was writing this, my daughter just came up to me and gave me a nickle she had found on the floor somewhere in the house. Instead of keeping it, she gave it to me in “case you need to buy something for yourself.”

Not buy something for HER. Buy something for ME. What a quantum leap forward! Perhaps not all is lost.

Maybe 4 years old is a little too early to consign the fate of "incorrigible" to a child. Maybe I am worrying for no reason.

But just in case, feel free to send advice my way. I’ll be the clueless dad in the corner.   

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Blessed -- In More Ways Than One

The second I saw Tyson post surgery, I knew things were going to be OK.

After his first surgery, when he was only 2 months old, our heightened anxiety turned to smiles as the surgeon explained how well things had gone. We were so happy, we took pictures with him to celebrate.

But when we arrived at Tyson’s room, the site of his broken body took my breath away. I stepped back out of the room to compose myself.

He actually looked dead to me. He was purple. His eyes rolled back into his head. He had a million wires connected to his abnormally still body.

So I prepared myself for a horror show as we took the elevator to the sixth floor last Friday to see our son after Dr. Roosevelt Bryant once again worked his magic on Tyson’s heart.

But the 2-year-old Tyson fared far better than the 2-month-old Tyson. This time, he looked more like his normal self, albeit with a 6-inch bandage holding his chest together and several wires monitoring his 25-pound body for post-surgical complications.

                                                                    First surgery vs. second surgery
Ecstatic is an understatement. We are amazed how well the surgery went and how quickly he rebounded.

I try not to make a bigger deal out of this than it is. I struggle with sharing fears of disasters that never materialize. I know other people have walked this path and still others walk more difficult journeys.

But damn, when it is your kid, it is your whole world. If you are ever going to make a big deal out of something – good or bad -- it is going to be your child.

So yes, there was, in fact,  a chance he wouldn’t make it through the surgery. Anytime you are being kept alive by a machine, things can go wrong. So, however small it might have been, there was a chance.

And, they’d told us there was a possibility – anywhere from 10 to 25 percent – that the surgery would screw with the electropaths of his heart and he would come out needing a permanent pacemaker.

But even at 25 percent, there was still a 75 percent chance he wouldn’t. So was I dwelling on the negative and too strongly communicating that to others?

After all, the surgeons at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center do about 300 open-heart procedures a year. They do far fewer Double Outlet Right Ventricle repairs such as Tyson’s, but, still, they clearly have experience that makes these procedures almost routine.

I don’t know. Maybe we made too big a deal of it. All I can say is, when it is your child, you tend to dwell on the negatives. The percentages become a blur of what ifs.

When my wife and I handed my boy over to the surgical team last Friday, we were both in tears. Whatever the chance, if there is even one iota of a possibility that you will not see your child alive again, it is almost too much to bear.

But this is Cincinnati Children’s, the third best children’s hospital in the country. The surgical team, from our gentle-giant surgeon, Dr. Bryant, to his assistant, Dr. Katherine Walters, to the anesthesiologists and the rest, worked a small miracle in our little boy.

An expected six-hour surgery became only four hours. Once they opened him up, they saw there was no need to fix Tyson’s original patch. The work Dr. Bryant had performed two years ago was still solid. They needed to only dissect some membrane and muscle and re-route a pathway to reduce pressure and even out blood flow.

This reduced recovery time. They were practically pushing us out the door before he was off the operating table. They talked of getting him up and moving the day after surgery. They were aggressive in discussing going home, despite our protests. We were concerned about his pain and elevated heart rate. He wasn’t eating or drinking. He was barely talking. He seemed angry at us, or depressed.

They were certain he would do better at home.

Turns out, they were right. One day after getting home, Tyson appeared to be his normal self. He is not sleeping well, still has some pain and is moving a lot slower, but he appears well on the way to recovery. In fact, we are already concerned about how we will keep him from running and roughhousing for the next six weeks as his chest heals.

For now, he will have regular visits to his cardiologist, Dr. Thomas Kimball, until we know he is fully recovered from the surgery. Then, we will get back into the routine of cardiac visits every six months to monitor his heart, each time hoping we don’t get told he will need another surgery.
                                                                             Dr. Roosevelt Bryant
Tyson is the kind of kid who, if someone gave him a balloon to play with, he would ask for one for his sister. He is an incredibly kind-hearted and quiet boy who is methodical and contemplative. He quietly plays with puzzles for hours. He has fun taking things out of a basket, arranging them, counting them and then putting them back.

He is meek. But his demeanor hides a ferociousness. I saw a nurse come in and take a blood sample from him. He never flinched, despite the fact she had to move the needle around to get enough blood.

During the whole pre-op, surgery and post-op, I saw him cry only on one day, the day after surgery. He was in a lot of pain and several times during the day, he whimpered. Through all of the rest, he was stoic.

As my favorite shirt of his says, "SOME DAY, I AM GOING TO MOVE MOUNTAINS." He will. He might even become a heart surgeon.

Some day, we are going to tell him about all the support he had going into that operating room.  We are collecting the pictures and messages and thoughts and prayers so he can some day know how many people had his back.

Those messages, thoughts, prayers and karma you sent our way over the last few weeks were like a wave carrying us through.  

Brooke’s co-workers made and sold shirts on Tyson’s behalf. Mine took a staff picture dressed in red in support. A fellow Heart Mom who sadly lost her child a few weeks after his first birthday brought us lunch in the waiting room as we anxiously yearned for some positive news on Tyson. The good friend who married us brought dinner that night. Others cooked for us when we got home. One friend of Brooke’s made us a couple weeks’ worth of dinners!

Both of our mothers came to town for weeks to help as needed. My daughter’s pre-school class made cards for Tyson, and the sixth-grade class at Brooke’s school each wrote personal messages of support to her. Some made you laugh out loud. Others made you cry at how caring and sensitive kids can be.  

And, the social media! It helped that Tyson's surgery got postponed to, of all things, Congenital Heart Defect Week. It provided the opportunity to spread even more awareness. "I'm a Tyson Supporter" symbols were everywhere, as were dozens of pictures of people wearing supporter shirts. Our story was being shared with lists of people we didn't know and then we began hearing from complete strangers who wished us well and told us they were in our corner.

If it is possible to feel both all alone and that you have an army of support behind you, that is where we found ourselves last Friday morning when we did that incredibly difficult hand off.

The byproduct of perhaps worrying too much, of maybe dwelling on the negatives and what ifs in too many conversations, of telling our story to too many people, was that a legion of support formed around us.

I’ll take that.  Every day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

This. Again.

Even if you know bad news is coming, when it is about your children, it slams your gut like a Mike Tyson uppercut.

We knew going into yesterday’s six-month checkup it was likely doctors would determine Tyson needed another open-heart surgery. Still, hearing the words made me instantly sick to my stomach.

And, to make it worse, the doctor stressed that even with successful surgery, Tyson might have to live the rest of his life with a pacemaker.

I’m angry at the world today.

My precious 2 ½-year-old son, a shy, sweet boy who enjoys counting and weekend sleepovers in his sister’s room, doesn’t deserve the havoc wreaked on his life by the randomness of a congenital heart defect.

I should count my blessings. I have a wonderful wife and two smart, adorable children. I could not have asked for a better mate and mother. My daughter is a spitfire of a 4-year-old, a smart and sassy diva always searching for an audience for her latest song, story or other imaginative theater. My son is a reserved, introspective child who can play by himself for hours, content in solving a puzzle or organizing and counting his toys.

My wife and I both have good, fairly secure jobs. Six months ago, we bought our dream home.

I came to this wonderful life late, and it is truly more than I deserve given my youthful transgressions.

I also know there are millions of parents around the world, and many we personally know, who would rip out their own heart if it gave their child a shot at an operation that would allow them to live a “normal” life.  We are reminded of this every time we visit Children’s Hospital.

I know I should be grateful. But dammit, I am angry.

I don’t want my son on that operating table again.

I don’t want his life hanging in the balance again.

We have been through this before. For those who don’t know, my son was born with Double Outlet, Right Ventricle. To simplify, the anatomy of his heart wasn’t right. He had to be delivered at a hospital close to Children’s Hospital – with a team of emergency medical personnel on hand – so he could quickly be whisked away to the hospital’s cardiac unit.

He spent a few weeks there and eventually went home to get stronger, so he could prepare for his operation. We fed him through a tube that went into his nose. Slated to undergo a corrective surgery at six months, he couldn’t make it that long. He was two months old when they first opened up his tiny chest.
He survived.

We continued to feed him through a tube. Eventually, he gained enough weight to make it onto the growth chart. The tube came out. He continues to eat pretty well. At last measure, he was in the fourth percentile for weight! We take all the milestones we can get.
Other than the jagged scar on his chest, you would never know he has issues. He plays like any other 2 year old. He is small for his age. His speech is a little behind. But honestly, you would never know.

He has come a long way. He is a fighter.

For the rest of his life, he will have regular cardiac checkups. At his checkup last May, they told us that the natural hole in his heart – something they would normally want to close, but in his case they used to route blood flow in the initial repair of his heart – was closing on its own. Eventually, they said, he would probably need another operation. But it is risky, so let’s wait as long as we can.
That wait lasted six months. He will have the surgery after the holidays.

The added news is that the repair site is near the natural electrical pathways of the heart. There is a chance that the “fix” will screw with the pathways. If so, he will wear a pacemaker the rest of his life. They will implant it near the bottom of his rib cage and, as he grows, move it to his chest.

My wife asked the doctor how that would impact his life.

No contact sports. Other inconveniences. But a chance at a full life.

It just adds to the list of our worries, which total three big ones right now:

  • His survival.
  • The need for a pacemaker.
  • The chance that these repair sites continue to close and he has to go through this every couple of years.
Our one saving grace: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The third best children’s hospital in the nation.
He will have the same surgeon as last time. The gentle giant, Roosevelt Bryant III. He has already saved his life once. I know he’ll want to finish the job.

Probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life was passing my little two-month old boy off for surgery two years ago, not knowing if I would get him back.

Now I have to do it again.

We adults know life knocks you on your ass every now and then. It is a shame my son has to learn it so often at such a young age.

My wife bought Tyson a t-shirt that says “Some Day, I Will Move Mountains.”

It is my favorite shirt.

I hope he gets the chance.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Daddy Humbug!

Call me Grinch.

I’m not a holiday guy. Never have been.

If not for my wife, my kids would have a far different holiday experience, one that resembled Whoville before the Grinch grew his heart.

As they get older, Sydney and Tyson will no doubt add to their nightly prayers, “Thank you God for sending us a mommy who gets excited about holidays.”

I don’t know when or where my ambivalence for holidays started. Sometime after I graduated college, I decided wrapping gifts was a waste of both time and money. Why spend so much effort for something that will be torn away in seconds?

So every year, I showed up at mom’s house with a garbage bag filled with toys and just handed them one by one to my mom, siblings and nephews.

“Merry Christmas! God bless us every one!”

It is not that I hate holidays. Well, maybe Halloween. Who likes dressing up in a costume and spending all night barely able to move?

As I grew older, I found ways to be comfortable during Halloween. Throw on a University of Cincinnati sweatshirt and a pair of shorts and carry around a basketball and pair of handcuffs – these were the Huggins years – and you are a UC Bearcats basketball player.

So I now have a rule on Halloween. If I am going to wear a costume, it actually has to be more comfortable than if I were not wearing a costume. It is a hard goal to meet, but as long as there are shorts and sweatpants, it is a possibility.

I do like Thanksgiving. You get to eat a lot and watch football. That is like any fall Saturday or Sunday for me.

But the rest – ambivalence. New Year’s Eve hasn’t been fun since I was 30 and Dick Clark rocked like a 65-year-old. Now, I rarely make it to the ball drop.

Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day – nice to have a day off work.

Christmas? Seems like a lot of work.

But now I have kids. And they want – no, they deserve – a nice Christmas.

That’s where mom comes in.

Since dad can’t seem to get his act together, she goes into high gear. First, there is the Elf on the Shelf. I never heard of this until a couple of years ago. It is a jolly way of scaring your kids into behaving.

When we were young, mom or dad used to say, “You better behave. Santa is watching.” Now, Santa has his own little spy who lives in your house the whole month of December and flies back to the north pole each night to report on the behavior of the household children.

Has anyone over 40 ever heard of this? I swear there was no Elf on the Shelf when we were kids. I think it has to do with the never-ending commercialization of Christmas. Sell an elf and the book about the elf.  Pretty soon, there will be reason for him to make his arrival around Labor Day as the never-ending Christmas season continues to bleed earlier and earlier on the calendar.

My dental hygienist said to me the other day, while not-so-carefully rooting through my mouth with a very sharp tool, “I’m thinking about doing the Elf on the Shelf this year. But it seems like a lot of work.” I almost choked to death on my own gum blood trying to gag out an emphatic “It is!”

Every night, my wife has to move that elf to a new place so the kids can find it again the next morning. Not a real difficult task, but try to remember to do anything every night. More than once, she has nervously spelled a “H-I-D-E E-L-F” to me as we are getting the children ready for pre-school in the morning, sending me scrambling down the stairs.

But the kids love it. They are like their mother.  They love everything about Christmas.

She has already hosted a Christmas cookie trading party. She has the house decorated in red and green. Every bedtime story in December must be a Christmas book.

Stockings are hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that lazy hubby will get off his derriere.

And the centerpiece of our holiday? The family Christmas tree.

I have managed to cut corners on the tree. We decided to start out with a fake one right from the get-go, so they would never know the difference.

All their life, they are going to have an artificial tree. Yes, this means they will never know the joy of trampling through the snow, searching the woods for the perfect evergreen, methodically checking for a bird’s nest – they’re good luck! – and measuring for a height that will fill the room without hitting the ceiling. (Or going to Home Depot, paying $20 and dragging a bundled, bedraggled tree to the back of the SUV).

I can live with that.

Our artificial tree is beautiful, a 7 ½ foot Martha Stewart given to me by a friend that would retail for about $300 at a store. The kids love it. The wife loves decorating it. I love not having to do anything. A win, win, win.

They also love Christmas lights. The chirping at dad has begun. “The neighbors have pretty lights, why can’t we?” Or the wife: “I don’t like colored lights, but it would be nice to have white ones.”

I try to drown it out. While they merrily think of the joy Christmas lights would bring, I picture myself falling off a ladder, ala Chevy Chase.

My wife finally conceded the other day, telling the children “the only way we are going to have lights is if mommy hangs them.”

Sydney and Tyson both turned to stare at me like I was the Grinch.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Straight Out of TV Hell

One of the rare times they are not pestering mom and dad.

Have you ever tried to watch a movie with a 4 year old and 2 year old in the same house?

Check that. Have you ever tried to watch even a half-hour television show with the children bouncing around the house?

Thank God for DVR. If I couldn’t record and then stop and start a television show a million times, I don’t know if I would ever watch anything from beginning to end. I’d forever be trapped in a loop of NCIS crimes that occur but never get solved.

When I first discovered DVR, I thought its main use would be to prevent fights between my wife and I. Suddenly, I had this tremendous device that allowed me to stop whatever I was watching and look intent and concerned while my wife babbled on about her day. When she was done, I picked right back up where I left off. Genius!

But now that I have kids, the DVR experience has reached a whole new level. With approximately 36 interruptions every time my wife and I sit down to watch a show, the DVR is the only thing that allows me to stay up on the disturbingly new macabre cases Criminal Minds stars must solve.

As soon as we sit in front of the TV, chaos ensues. This is when the kids choose to fight. Or cry. Or need something. Or ask questions.  

It is “Mommy, can I have a drink?” or “Daddy, listen to this new song I made up,” every five minutes. Or, like clockwork, the dreaded, “Daddd--yyyy, coommmeee wipe me.”

Yes, she does it in a sing-song way.

Last night, in the middle of a Criminal Minds playback, Tyson, who isn’t potty trained and shows no interest, asked if he could pee on the potty. This necessitated in a 15-minute break from the show to watch Tyson NOT pee because he really never intended to. It was all part of the master plan the kids have to ensure mommy and daddy don’t stay current on The Middle and The Goldbergs.

Mind you, we actually only try to watch a show three or four times a week. Ninety percent of the time, both televisions we have downstairs are turned to Team Umizoomi or Little Charmers or some kid’s movie on Apple TV while we do parent things.

I get home about 5:30-6 p.m. Bed time for the kids is, hopefully, 9. I’m usually exhausted and ready to go down at 10. In between, dinner, baths, bedtimes stories, packing backpacks for the next day, etc. TV usually has to wait until the weekends or that rare weeknight when it all comes together just right.  

I currently have about 37 hours of taped shows on my DVR. They hang over my head like a guillotine. Will I max out without watching them and have to start erasing for new tapings?

Happened a lot on Time Warner. But Direct TV gives me more storage. Crossing my fingers.

My brother recently gave us some black-market gadget that allows me to watch pretty much every movie ever made. I can get movies that are in the theater right now! They may have Chinese subtitles or the sound may be a half-second off from the visual, but I get to watch Straight Out of Compton without going straight out of my house.

That is a nice treat for a couple who has not gone to a movie theater since Sydney emerged from Brooke’s birth canal four years ago.

How many shows have I watched? Well, I got half way through Black Mass. Did the FBI ever catch that Whitey Bulger guy?

And in Straight Out of Compton, I got to the point where NWA hit the airwaves with Fuck The Police.

That can’t go well for them.

That’s it. Two half movies. Not 2 and a half movies. Two HALF movies.

My wife, on a whim, picked up a RedBox movie while at the grocery the other day. We literally had to order our two children into the other room every five minutes in an attempt to get through it. We got about three-quarters of the way through and the DVD had a glitch, not allowing us to go further.


That makes three movies in the past month where we have no endings.

When we moved into the new house, I signed up for Direct TV. They gave me a package with free HBO and Cinemax for three months. When that was up, I called to cancel. The customer service guy offered to increase my access to movie channels for the same price.

I laughed. More movies I can’t watch? Yeah, I’ll pass buddy.

At some point, these kids are going to be more independent and willing to play on their own. At least Tyson will. Sydney seems to need an audience for everything.

If they ever reach that point, I plan on catching up on a decade’s worth of movies and television.

Until then, if you see me, try not to dish out any spoilers on The Good Wife.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

First Day of School Opens Up New Fears

A child’s first-ever day of school is difficult. This is a big, unknown world to them and this life transition can be overwhelming.

The car ride feels like a trip to a funeral.

The stomach is tied in knots and the walk to the schoolhouse door is so nerve racking there is legitimate fear the morning breakfast might make an unwanted reappearance on the sidewalk.

The lump in the throat makes it nearly impossible to talk. And tears. No matter how strong, the eyes get misty.

My first day of preschool did not go well.

Wait, you thought I was talking about Sydney? That girl couldn’t wait for this big transition. Dad, however, was not as excited about this HUGE step.

My big hope -- one that is shared by all parents -- is that my child be liked and have a positive experience in school.  The alternative would rip out my heart.

So, as I approach the door every morning when I drop her off for preschool, I scan the faces of children to first see if there is anyone her age and then if there is anyone whom she already calls a “friend.” After I sign her in, I linger, hoping to see someone run up to her and say hi, or grab her hand and ask her to come play.

Two weeks in and Sydney still enjoys going, so I think she is making headway. She’s a social butterfly who is fearless when it comes to introducing herself, talking to others or even joining into play that is already taking place. She is much better than I am when it comes to working the crowd.

Still, I have seen her attempts to play with older children met with stares and silence. I cried silently inside.

This parenting thing makes you soft.

I owe a former Cincinnati Enquirer editor a humble apology. She once asked me to do a story on school bullying. I brushed it off, thinking it was silly. I thought she was only suggesting it because her kid was a “nerd” and getting picked on. This was before the days of the internet and social media and some of the extreme tragedies we have seen occur because of bullying.

I remember the horseplay we engaged in when I was a kid. I gave some and I took some. I don’t know that it was “bullying,” but I do remember some kids got a lot more than others. We picked on one boy so much that, when he shot and killed his grandfather years later, I actually wondered if we weren’t all somehow culpable.

I don’t want my kids to bully or be bullied. I want them to be the one who befriends those who are being picked on. In this day and age, that simple act of kindness might save your life if that kid one day decides to bring a gun to school.

To say I am worried about bullying already is a little extreme. I’m mainly concerned about acceptance. I don’t need Sydney to have 100 friends, but I really need her to have a couple. I need to feel secure that she is happy and that going to school is positive and something she enjoys. I need to know her feelings aren’t being trampled on every day.

Why? I can’t explain it. I don’t even have those needs for myself. I already have a healthy dose of self-confidence and a probably way-too-big ego, so when I sense someone’s distaste for me or perceive talking behind my back, I brush it off and move on.

But I need more for my daughter. And, in time, my son.

We all want this for our children, right? It is on the list of “big wishes” for a parent, right behind health and safety. We want them to feel happy, loved and accepted.

I even thought to myself the other day that if I could make a deal with the devil, I’d cut off one of my hands to ensure she was always well liked, surrounded by friends and blissfully dancing through life, unbothered by cold stares and silent replies.

That is what we parents do. We worry. We bargain. We hope for the best.

So every morning, after I have signed her in, said my good bye and closed the schoolhouse door, I always take one last look through the window.

I look for the hint of a smile.

I hope for a little spring in her step.

I scan furtively for another child to come racing out of the crowd to greet my daughter.

A friend. That’s all I really want to see. A friend.