Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The annals of child rearing

Whenever a celebrity goes overseas to adopt a child, I can't help but think of D.J. and and his wife Cole, a couple I first met in Houston back in the mid-80s who now live in St. Louis.

They had three kids the old-fashioned way, then adopted five more. The first three are adults now and the five younger ones range in age from 7 to 12.

Yep, it can be a three-ring circus, based on personal visits I've made to their home.

But it's always interesting.

D.J. wrote about it in this edition of St. Louis Magazine.

At the end of the piece is this list of "hard-earned advice":

* Children spell love T-I-M-E—not “quality” time, just time. Be with them, talk to them, listen to them, play with them, do nothing with them, even argue with them.
* You don’t spoil your baby by holding him too much. Do it while you can.
* Don’t beat your kids. An occasional reflex slap on the wrist or derriFre isn’t the end of the world, but just remember: Violence and pain often beget more of the same.
* You will yell at your children and say mean things. It’s acceptable to apologize to them later, and it’s acceptable not to apologize and to tell them you meant what you said.
* Credit Calvin Trillin with this observation: Your kids don’t listen when you talk to them; they listen when you talk to someone else. Your behavior in front of them is much more important than your speechifying.
* You do need to talk with them. There is no such thing as small talk. Start early—any time after conception is fine. An old maxim is that the time to talk to your 16-year-old is when he or she is about 2—or sooner.
* Ralph Waldo Emerson said that the only success is confidence. Anything you can do to give your children the feeling that they will endure, including allowing them to fail and recover, is a good idea.
* Your children are people. Don’t feel bad that you get along with each one differently. Some will need you more than others; some will be easier to like than others.
* If your children are enthusiastic about doing anything short of grave-robbing or binge drinking, run with it. If they want to build miniature frigates inside empty wine bottles, start draining the bottles.
* When in doubt, go with your gut, give your kid a hug and say, “No matter what, I love you.” They won’t get that from too many people. It’s a good feeling to have, even when it’s only a memory.

If you take anything away from the magazine article, I'd like to think it's the reminder that if you or any of your friends or relatives want to adopt a child or three, there are plenty available here in America. You don't have to go to Namibia or Cambodia.

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