The Shy Child

Here’s another poem M-ito’s teacher showed us at parent teacher conference. This one made us all cry, each for different reasons. The punctuation and line breaks are all his.


I am always shy

when I meet people

I always make

a shy face

but when I

get used to people

I am not shy at


I wish I could change

how I am shy

but I cannot.

What does this mean to me as a father? Have I gone wrong by having a shy child? Would I rather have an outgoing, rambunctious child? I love my son just the way he is but these questions come up for me as a father. Did I somehow make my son shy or is he hardwired from having two shy parents? Is it in the genes? I was shy also (and continue to be) though I see already my son is way ahead of me in being able to express who he is and what it feels like to be him. That ability to express himself like this at his age amazes me. He is an introspective child and that is a wonder.

I remember when he was younger he was the slow-to-warm-up child. An hour into the party he would finally let go of my leg and start to enjoy himself, just as the party was over and all his friends started to leave. He’s grown so much since then in his abilities to socialize and make friends, but like with so many of us, it’s hard to him to do. This poem is such a reflection of his starting in this school and pushing himself to make friends this year – and he has. None of his teachers would say he’s a shy child now because he is so much a part of the 2nd grade and so well-integrated. But his view of himself is on paper in front of me and it is both beautiful in its honesty and sad at the same time because it’s painful what he is expressing. Don’t we all wish better for our children? Is being shy a bad thing? I don’t think so, but it’s hard not to get caught up in the sayings, like the early bird gets the worm, and the emphasis on being assertive to get what you need. The loud child gets the attention at home and in the classroom. But some of us are just not hard-wired that way and we have to learn other ways to exist. Shy is good, even if it’s harder. Perhaps that should be made into a mantra and chiseled into Sanskrit for all the world to see.

Aparigraha Lessons

It (aparigraha) means non-possessiveness or non-hoarding and it’s a yogic concept right out of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Last year at parent teacher conferences in First Grade I took a look at the interior of M-ito’s desk and found it filled with papers, old homework, half-finished drawings, used and new tissues, and all the way at the back there was a sandwich of some sort, wrapped in sarran wrap. I don’t know how old it was and neither did M-ito. Neither of us wanted to see what it looked like so it just got thrown out.

“In case I was hungry,” M-ito said, when asked,”Why?”

Last week at parent teacher conferences in Second Grade, at a new school (which we are amazingly still happy about) we found that our son was hoarding pencils. He picked them up whenever he found them during the day and put them in his desk. He had quite a few of them from 3/4’s of a year’s tidying up of pencils. He told us, “I’m hoarding pencils,” with a big smile on his face. One of his friends was hoarding scissors, the same way. I’m glad M-ito was only hoarding pencils. The kids at M-ito’s school all have pencils, scissors, notebooks, folders, and pens (when they get to them) given to them by the school. There’s no competition over styles and designs, no extra cash to lay out for these kinds of utensils of student work. It’s all in the tuition. Gulp. So M-ito’s collection of pencils is not differentiated by these things. Instead each is differentiated by whether a pencil is sharpened or not, how many times it has been sharpened which determines its length, and finally how much of an eraser is left – maybe he also codes them by the size of the bite marks left on them – I don’t know. My son collects pennies too – wheat pennies only. It’s a hold-over from my grandfather who was a trainman, and myself who collected in his footsteps.

I believe he’s going to give all the pencils back to his teacher at some point. At least that’s what he said when I asked him. At least he’s helping to keep the floor clean. Gotta give that to him.

Breakfast Talk

My son’s writing poetry and it’s beautiful. I know, I’m his Dad-dito so I’m biased but this is the greatest.


By M-ito

sizzle! ding! I get out of bed.

what’s all the noise? I go to the

kitchen and… whistle! bump! crack! my mom

made everything! I race to the table.

gulp, gulp, gulp. I am out the door.

Mom-ita told M-ito – after she told him how much she loved the poem – “But that’s not the truth. Dad-dito makes breakfast.”

M-ito replied, “No, Mom-ita, you don’t have to tell the truth in a poem.”

Momita: “And you don’t have any capital letters either.”

M-ito: “Poetry is about breaking the rules, Mommy.”

If only I could use the same rules at work.

Yarmulke’s, Crusades, and Bobby Pins

I’m driving the kids in to school so both Austino and M-ito are sitting in the back seat. The first subject is religion. I don’t remember how we got onto it but we did.

“Why do religious people strap bombs onto themselves and kill other people,” asked Austino.

“Well, not all religious people.”

“But religions do that.”

“Well… no major religion has anything in its sacred texts about killing everybody else, but there are crazy people everywhere so even the major religions have them too.”

“But terrorists do that kind of thing – ”

“So did the Christians during the crusades. Do you know about them? They tried to conquer the holy land from the Moslems and then the Moslems took it back at them.” Man was I in trouble.  In my head I was getting Moslems and Christians, Byzantines and Romans all mixed up in my head. “There are groups within all groups, especially the major religions. Like the Jews have all kinds of groups from Hasidic to orthodox to not-so frequently-attending jews, to non-practicing like myself.”

“They wear those small hats on their heads, right?” M-ito asked.

“Yes, a yarmulke.” We were on yarmulke’s which I figured was safe ground – away from terrorists and bombs.

“Why are they so small?” M-ito asked.  “They fall off your head pretty easy. I still have the red one.”

“From Lizzie’s bat mitzvah.”

M-ito nodded. I could see him in the rearview mirror. “Yeah, they could use a bobby pin or something, right, to keep it on?”

“Yeah, they could. That would make sense.” M-ito said.

Then it got quiet for a little while. Whew. I was grateful we hadn’t ventured any further into religious territory. Last time I ended up talking about reincarnation. And that had repercussions. Mom-ita still won’t let me forget that one.

Disney in the Rain

My favorite moment at Disney had nothing to do with the parks or the world of Disney. My favorite moment occurred the morning it rained and we couldn’t do anything but hang out in the room The day before the rain had started and driven us out of the Magic Kingdom and back to our room. It rained all night. It poured all morning. At ten o’clock the three of us were in one of the beds, Momita and M-ito reading their books and me drawing my pictures on a small sketch pad. Our legs were under the covers. We had nowhere to go and nothing to do but just hang out and read and just be with each other. That afternoon the rain finally stopped and we got dressed, travelled to the Animal Kingdom where we had a great time at the African Safari ride and playing hide and seek in Dinoland. But the three hours we had that morning eating breakfast and lying in bed together made it all come together for me. It just made things perfect.

Disney World Pin-Possible

We went to Disney World for spring break. It was M-ito’s second time there. He’d been there before just after his grandmother died when he was almost 5. Things haven’t changed much, though there are some new attractions. You still can’t tell what’s real and what’s fake. Is that a real rock or some kind of plaster one? Is that wood or molded plaster? Is that a creature or an animatronics animal? It’s like Alice falling down into the rabbit hole sometimes. Other times it is wonderful and beautiful. Most of the flowers are real and they take your breath away.

The first three days were hard because Mom-ita and me , well, we both (me more I have to admit) thought M-ito would want to go on the rides. And M-ito is not a rides kind of kid. He’s gentler and not into roller coasters. He wants to be that kind of kid but knows he’s not. He kept saying no to rides and Mom-ita and me kept getting more and more frustrated about suggesting rides to go on. Finally we got on line for Goofy’s Barnstorming Rollar Coaster – a mild one that’s good for starting kinds off on these kinds of rides so the guide-book says, and as soon as we got on line the coaster roared by. M-ito looked at me and said, “No. I’m not going on.” I said, “That sounds fine to me.” Then we sat down just past where the line started and I told him how proud I was of him for knowing what he could do and what he couldn’t do. I told him this was a great quality to have and that I loved him for it. And for once I do’nt think I talked too much because he didnt tell me to stop talking. He seemed relieved.

It took me until that moment to realize what I should have known from all the clues and hints I’ve had for the last seven years about my son but for some reason have ignored in my haste to see that he rode the rides at Disney because… that’s what you do when you’re there. Well, not my son.

Here are four things my son really enjoyed while he was at Disney and if your kid is like him they might like these kinds of attractions too:

  1. Trading pins. Disney has pin stations everywhere. I bought a lanyard for M-ito to wear around his neck and a starter set of pins then M-ito traded with Disney workers who had lanyard or belt holders, or holding a big board with pins (these were the real gold mines because of the large number of pins they had). He had to go up to them and ask to trade then traded for a pin he liked. My son asked Disney workers all over EPCOT and Animal Kingdom – for a shy child not an easy thing to do, but he did it easily a dozen times. It took me a while to figure out that I should buy really cheap pins (the green label ones) that he didn’t like so that he could trade up for more expensive pins or pins that he did like. I bought a good $100 worth of pins before I figured this out. I’m slow when it comes to these things. M-ito loved doing this – asking people to trade, searching for just the right pin to trade for, and displaying them around his neck like trophies. And we did this on a off for two whole days. While we shopped he was on the lookout for Disney workers with lanyard around their necks. He was never bored.
  2. Kim Possible in EPCOT. We spent two days at EPCOT and did one mystery/adventure each day. They took about an hour to do and are like being a secret agent on a mission for Kim Possible. We completely explored France and Norway doing each mission and had pictures taken of us from hidden cameras, searched for clues behind pictures, ran back and forth from one side of the country to the other, and laughed while we puzzled out where the right doorway was hidden. M-ito loved this “attraction.” And I had a lot of fun doing it with him.
  3. Pirates of the Caribbean Become a Pirate – not the ride, that was too scary. I’m talking about the full costume and make-up turn your kid into a pirate deal. It also took an hour (and cost ugh you don’t want to know), but M-ito enjoyed every minute of it. And we ended up with a great costume for Halloween and a great picture of our son in full pirate costume.
  4. Lego land at Downtown Disney. We spent at least an hour on line (go early not late as I think the lines are smaller) but an hour before that playing with Legos at all the different stations. And you could buy your own brick packages (you pick your own bricks and put them in a small container making your own set – sooo cool I made up one myself). M-ito loves Lego. Just beware of being there too late as folks are out drinking later on and wandering around from pleasure island.

Other suggestions. Take at least one day to not go to any park and hang out at the pool at your hotel. Kids love pools. And if the sun is out and it’s not too cold… you will too. M-ito wanted to learn how to play poker so I taught him how to play. We made great use of a single deck of cards the whole trip (I brought them everywhere) and it was really fun. Who would have thought?