Father's Privilege

No law or politics here. Mushy stuff. Move along, nothing to see.

On August 19, 2007, in a steaming and cacophonous room of the Civil Affairs Ministry in Wuhan, we first met Elaina. She wailed for a while and then fell asleep in my arms on the bus.

Look, kid, I understand the confusion, but you're out of luck there.

Look, kid, I understand the confusion, but you're out of luck down there.

Today she's seven: loud, dramatic, still dangerous, devious, and quite smart.

PHEARMYDIMPLES

She's learning Mandarin in an immersion program, and apparently she's really very good at it, but she won't speak a word of it to us, probably so she can preserve the ability to swear at us covertly.

Growing up I assumed you got some sort of training to be a parent, or you got old enough that you suddenly understood how to do it through instinct. Nobody told me we'd be making it up as we go along. (Me: Is that normal, what she's doing? Katrina: How should I know? Me: BECAUSE YOU HAVE A DOCTORATE IN CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY AND YOU'RE A CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST! Katrina: Yeah, I got nothing.) This has caused me to reevaluate my parents and grandparents and, in retrospect, appreciate them more.

If we're to make it up as we go along, how fortunate we are to do so with a child like this.

The story of how Elaina came to be available for us to adopt her is hers to tell, not mine. But today, in addition to being thankful that she's part of my family, and feeling unaccountably blessed by the privilege of trying to raise her, I feel both gratitude to her birth parents and sorrow for their loss.

First, there's NO WAY I'm going to let you take up hawking, young lady.  Second, that's not a hawk, THAT'S AN OWL.  Don't you know ANYTHING?

First, there's NO WAY I'm going to let you take up hawking, young lady. Second, that's not a hawk, THAT'S AN OWL. Don't you know ANYTHING?

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. Steven H. says

    Me: Is that normal, what she's doing? Katrina: How should I know?

    Seems to me I remember that happening more than a few times while raising mine.

    Who is an adult now, but still, every now and then, I find myself thinking "Is she supposed to be doing that? Is it normal?"

  2. says

    Plays with owls, capable of mysterious physical feats when no one is looking. She might be getting a letter from Hogwarts in a few years, lol.

    And Happy Birthday to her!

  3. ketchup says

    Congratulations!
    My oldest daughter turns 13 today. But she does not want to be a teenager because she has heard that many teenagers make unwise choices. So she has decided to be "twelvity-one". I hope she maintains that attitude until she is about 40. I have enough gray hair already.

  4. Ken Mencher says

    She's very cute, and obviously smart…

    Now I don't feel so bad about having no idea what my 13-mo old is doing that's obviously so important to her…

    I'm still wondering if that babbling is actually the secrets of the universe…

  5. George William Herbert says

    It's "Falconry", and is perfectly acceptable for kids. The birds seem unexpectedly calm around kids.

  6. Jon says

    With a daughter on the way it brings me comfort to know even for a child psychologist parenting seems to be a kludge of guess work, playing it by ear, and 'I think I saw my Mom do this once.'

  7. Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries says

    She's beautiful, and you're very lucky to have each other.

    We all made it up as we went along. With kids, it's really not so much what you do but that you do it with empathy. Without it, all the perfect parenting in the world will not save the child. (My daughter is almost 30, and I have a four-year old grandson–the voice of experience. Not all of it wonderful, but I'd do it again if I had to choose.)

  8. says

    The Scene: My Beautiful Wife and her mother are changing Firstborn, who is at this time still a baby boy. (This would be roughly seven years ago.) Naturally, as soon as they remove the diaper Firstborn begins to urinate, in a manner like unto a fire hose.

    Beautiful Wife: "What do we do?!"

    Her Mother: "I don't know! You were both girls!"

  9. Ivraatiems says

    Every time you post a picture I'm overcome by that smile she's got.

    Congrats!

    Clark… expressed human emotions… They said it was possible but I, I never thought…

    What will science think of next?

  10. Ryan says

    It seems child psychologists and registered nurses who work with children have a few things in common. Or at least, Ken's wife and mine sure do.

    Congrats on seven years of successfully raising your little one =)

  11. says

    I have come to the conclusion that kids are really resilient and most parenting mistakes will be inconsequential in the long run. Or, as I tell my teens now when I am making an unpopular decision or imparting discipline, "Don't worry! This'll therapy right out in a decade."

  12. says

    @Ivraatiems

    Clark… expressed human emotions… They said it was possible but I, I never thought…

    I find it happenes every now and then after I've … fed … too heavily.

    Ah, delicious delicious human bloo – uh, emotions.

  13. says

    what is it about kids and smiling with their eyes open such that they seem to be physically unable to do both simultaneously. my 3-year old is the same way and yea, it's damn cute, but seriously, where is this taught?

  14. Jim Salter says

    Our kids are in Mandarin immersion programs as well (well, technically, the oldest is, and the younger two will be). :fistbump:

  15. Dick Taylor says

    I'm a pediatrician and a parent of six. Guess which one qualifies me to advise parents? (The correct answer, of course, is probably "neither", but I flatter myself.)

    She's absolutely beautiful. Congratulations!

  16. Sheriff Fathead says

    @Michael Mock: I quickly learned to change my son from one side, rather than putting myself directly in the line of fire.

    Mind you, my elder daughter once got me from a range of three feet, so it's not just boys.

  17. AlphaCentauri says

    It's difficult enough to know what to do when they're genetically related to you. If some other parent had raised my kid, who was just as hyperactive as I had been, they might have reacted with a lot more alarm.

  18. Golden Boy says

    @Dick Taylor: I think you mean seven children. Just because you were never technically responsible for my actions doesn't mean you're not my parent.
    And cute kid. I can't wait to have my first little rugrat running around. Hopefully sooner rather than later that will be a reality.

  19. Tim McNeil says

    My youngest is now 12. She and I spend almost every weekend camping and riding ATVs on the trails. We spend a lot of time together and I am the luckiest dad in the world to be able to spend so much quality time with such a great kid.

    I often recall that day 12 years ago that my wife told me we were going to adopt another child. I was like "No way. Don't need another kid, we're fine." Good thing my wife is smart and pays no attention to my ramblings. If my foolish attitude had prevailed, I would have missed out on the very best days of my life.

  20. Kelly says

    Ken – As an adoped child, I wish for your gorgeous daugher that she always know how truly fortunate she is to have so much love in her life. I am forever grateful that my birth mother loved me enough to allow my adoptive parents to take me into their family.
    And, as a female whose birthday is close to your daugher's, I have for you a warning: You have a beautiful, smart and precocious Scorpio (who can speak a language you don't understand!) on your hands. Beware the teenage years, my friend. Beware! :)

  21. Grey says

    I don't often post on websites that I read… but between cute kids and Language immersion I can't resist this time.

    Just wanted to say as a parent of 3, with 2 of them in a Japanese language immersion program, and #3 entering the program next year… I can sneak up while my eldest is deeply engaged with the Japanese Interns, and the moment she notices me she becomes too shy to speak Japanese.

    Her report cards say she's great at it however!

  22. Dion starfire says

    @Ken Hate to break it to ya pal, but it looks like your daughter is going to be a total hottie when she gets older. Ya may want to save a few hairs to go grey, then. :P

  23. JoeT says

    Me: Is that normal, what she's doing? Katrina: How should I know? Me: BECAUSE YOU HAVE A DOCTORATE IN CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY AND YOU'RE A CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST! Katrina: Yeah, I got nothing.

    See, you should have married a woman with a doctorate in research developmental child psychology. Then the conversation goes:

    Me: Is that normal, what he's doing?

    Spouse: It's been reported in the literature for children as young as 4 months, but sometimes as late as 12. Baillargeon has demonstrated it in infants as young as 2 months, but the effect is weak and the Xu lab at Berkeley has an experiment which…

    Me (interrupting): Okay, okay, so, normal. How can we get him to stop doing it?

    Spouse: I got nothing.

  24. Mullah Nasruddin says

    Seems all of your female children are dangerous. Can't your male child keep them in line? (j/k)

    Your last line in the post-I think the operant phrase is 'bittersweet'.

    Love the flying cat, BTW.

  25. says

    Ken, I just became a father for the second time today, so this post really made me smile. Thank you. Hope my new one turns out as wonderful as yours.

  26. CJK Fossman says

    @Ken

    Words fail me. Good job and good fortune.

    Free advice unsolicited and worth what you pay dept: I recommend prayer, both for guidance and gratitude for things turning out well. My wife and I raised three and our youngest is 28. All doing well, thank God. Sometimes I think about problems our neighbors have had and try to figure out what they did that we did not, or what we did that they did not. Best answer I have is: beats the shit out of me.

    @Amateur diaper changers
    IMMEDIATELY after removing the old diaper, place the new diaper over the child's urinary orifice.

  27. Dick Taylor says

    @Golden Boy: This will teach me to encourage my children to read certain websites. Exception noted. Seven children.

    @CJK Fossman: The trick is to place the new diaper underneath the old one in the fully extended position, thus allowing an immediate removal of the old and closure of the new (and containment of any sudden accidents). Little boys treat cold air as a trigger to void. Haste and precision are recommended. Also don't change the child on surfaces that cannot be peed on.

  28. Dragonmum says

    Ken, she's so beautiful. ❤ She's going to grow up to be Empress of the World. There's something very humbling about raising children who know more about some things than we do, and who we suspect are probably smarter than us too. It helped me to remember all the devious things I did as a kid/teen when it came time to monitor all 3 of mine. Now I've been a Mom for almost 29 years and my "Mom-fu" is strong – my girl will be 29 next Tuesday; We're both Scorpios. Rawr!

    Actually, my experiences as a kid helped me more than any advanced degrees – children # 1 & 3 are my clones and #2 was much like my brother. (I'm a psychiatrist.) Degrees didn't help my hubby, who is step-dad to the older 2, at all. His baby boy wrapped him around his little fingers at will. At almost 18, he still does. Yeah. Hubby's a Child Psychiatrist.

    And I take back my comment on the last post about your son circumventing parental controls. She'll teach him how…

  29. wgering says

    @Clark:

    I find it happenes every now and then after I've … fed … too heavily.

    Ah, delicious delicious human bloo – uh, emotions.

    A ton of stuff just suddenly started making sense.

  30. Luke G says

    That smile! Right in the emotions! Seriously, it's like the photo version of the videos of the baby laughing at ripping paper, I just can't stay frowny.

  31. Sami says

    On topic: that kid is a punch to the solar plexus of cute.

    The side-topic: If changing a baby boy, place a cloth of some kind over the penis, always. (No, not one of those wet-wipes people use – the average baby boy can fire one of those most of the way to the ceiling. Just have a washcloth or something on standby for this.)

    You can get stupid little party hats for them, but those are in the category of "oh hell no what is WRONG with you" parenting supplies.

  32. Matthew Smith says

    Thank you for sharing your pride with us, Ken. Your daughter is awesome.

    Wait until she sees Firefly.

  33. says

    The cuteness is paralyzing. And the baby picture OMG…is nibbling on babies a "thing" in China? Because I'm Southern and if I'd had a lap full of those cheeks and thighs I probably would've scared everyone on the bus.

    Diva will be 12 in one month. Never have I prayed so fervently or with such desperation. God's all like "Uh huh, yeah. NOW you need me…."

  34. Sharon says

    That child has weaponized the dimple.

    BTW, Owls are allowed, and sometimes actually used, in falconry in the US. The federal regulations recently lowered the minimum age at which a minor can become a falconry apprentice. California has a large, active falconry community. Ken's not off the hook just yet.

  35. babaganusz says

    Nobody told me we'd be making it up as we go along.

    i've begun pre-micromanaging a ridiculously elaborate education plan for my near-future hypothetical(s). doesn't hurt that the better half is already a teacher, though so far she prefers instructing adults…

    that babbling is actually the secrets of the universe

    strongly suspect that one can always find some way to interpret anything profoundly. the real craft is in applying that interpretation to the actualities and vagaries of earth-based endeavors. [snips tangents taking cheap shots at the pigeon gallery for prior bluster]

    it's really not so much what you do but that you do it with empathy.

    all of my observations of 'betters' and 'worses' support this. it's almost farcical how many people could truly learn from this simple concept, and simply won't. merely irritating that some of us begin to grasp it but execute it sloppily or in a bizarrely selective way. not worried about Ken in the overall arena, of course.

    most parenting mistakes will be inconsequential in the long run

    ah, but better arrived-at after an ulcer or two rather than in advance of them?

    I quickly learned to change my son from one side

    some people are natural engineers, others… well, there's always empathy. ;)

    Wait until she sees Firefly.

    .. and corrects the tones!

  36. says

    My eldest will be 32 in a few days. I still haven't located that damned manual. Now I need the supplement on grandparenting and it's nowhere to be found.

    The school years go by in a blur, then there's the slog of college with too much time between visits. At some moment during all those years you gain the relief of the realization that you can be helpful but are no longer essential.

    Burn those owl moments into your brain.

  37. Sharon says

    Yes! I highly recommend following the "Still Dangerous" link, and then clicking through to the "Conversations with Kids" linked there.

    It's provided some amusing lunchtime reading and conversations at the office. My current team is split between the grandparents and the first-time parents. It's been a blast listening to the story-telling that sharing the series here has triggered at my office.