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Out Like a Lion

The weather across the US was without question some of the craziest I’ve seen for a March in a long time. Ironically, my life followed suit as this March was an equally blustery and unpredictable month. It wasn’t all bad so to speak, but trying to keep up with it was anything but easy. From a bizarre running injury that is just now
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rectifying itself to the wrapping up of several amazing, yet time consuming projects, my life had its own series of storms passing through. And I’m just now getting to start cleaning up in the aftermath. Being a divorced parent isn’t unlike the weather. Cold fronts move in. High pressure zones take over and directly affect temperature shifts throughout the week. Annual patterns or seasons begin to form. Clouds can move in and stick around for days. And then every once in a while the sun breaks through.

When nasty storms blow in, it’s easy to blame some of it on the divorce. Phrases like, “If I didn’t have to go it alone,” “If I didn’t have to be at three places at the same time,” or “Man if I could just lie down for 30 minutes,” all race through your head. But as I tell the kids over and over again, we all have our crosses to bare. Everyone deals with changes in the weather. We all have storms that come creeping in. Everyone’s circumstances create their own challenges every day. We can blame our hardships on those circumstances or we can accept our lives and make the best of it. We can fight the weather or we can learn when to just close the windows, batten down the hatches and wait until the storm passes through.

Over time you start to learn how to handle it all and you recognize that weather patterns emerge. Storms come and go and 1617519_10152239263967908_2132315710_oeven after the longest stretches of rain, eventually the sun comes up in the morning. It’s funny. I teach the kids to go jump in the puddles when it’s raining out (without lightning of course). So why not teach them to go jump in the puddles created by life’s rain showers? Why teach them to fear storms? Yes, we’re going to have moments when we’re overwhelmed by the damage done. We may emerge from our safe haven with a huge mess to clean up. But we need to be able to understand that as great as it would be to have 75 degrees and sunny every day, even Los Angeles has its share of crappy weather not to mention earthquakes. You simply can’t avoid it. Life is going to throw some crap at you once in a while. Some people thrive on the chaos, others not so much. But the reality is, if you want to find true joy, you have to learn to make the most of it and maybe jump in a puddle once in a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crackin’ the Whip!

As I’m writing this my kids are doing their laundry.

When you first get divorced; if your time with the kids is divided, it’s very easy to slip into the mode of letting the kids mess up the house while they’re with you and then just straighten up after they leave. But at some point you recognize you’re not doing anyone any favors. Trying to keep up with all of it is near impossible. It is at that point that you suddenly realize you’re doing your kids a disservice. The excuse of “well I want to make
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the most of our time together” doesn’t wash either. We are parents, not butlers and maids. Our job is to teach our children responsibility and how to fend for themselves. If done routinely and done correctly there should be plenty of “fun time” available after everything is done.

And so their mother and I came to an agreement that Saturdays would be for getting the house in order regardless of whose house it was. As the schedule worked out, flag football is on Thursdays, softball games / practices are all on weekdays. So the weekends are wide open. And so; laundry and house cleaning is now part of the Saturday ritual; not unlike it was when I was growing up. Only in this instance the boy is actually expected to contribute. (that one is for my sisters). Each kid is responsible for their own clothes and keeping up with their things.

On the list of chores:

Laundry: No more whining because mom or dad didn’t have the right pair of jeans clean when you wanted them. It’s your responsibility. The washer and dryer are there for the family. Everyone now knows how to use it. Each has a designated time on Saturdays to do theirs. No excuses.

Rooms: With the clothes picked up, the rest of the room can be put back together including the beds.

Dishes: Each person is responsible for their own plate, glass, silverware and one additional item off of the table. They get rinsed and put in the dishwasher (neatly).

Garbage: If the garbage can is full. Empty it.

Additionally; our kids are also learning how to cook and bake. They can make breakfast including scrambled/fried eggs, sausage, pancakes and muffins. They can get their own cereal out if they like, prepare 2014-03-22 14.29.13Mac & Cheese or Rice Cups if they prefer. So long as they clean up their mess afterward. As they get older they are constantly hungry. If you want something outside the routine lunch and dinner mode; have at it.

Some of you may be saying: “Well duh! What took you so long!” But my guess is that there are plenty of you who find yourself continually picking up shoes, cereal bar wrappers, empty Goldfish boxes and water pouches, popsicle sticks etc. Spending an hour every day doing dishes. Trying to make sure each kid’s clothes end up in the right closet after coming out of the dryer. Well. The reality is there simply isn’t enough time as a single parent to do ALL of it. Especially when there are others in the house perfectly capable of doing many of the chores. The larger message here is that they are not visitors to my home or their mother’s home. We are a family and as a family we need to work together to maintain “OUR” homes. This is not a bed and breakfast or a cruise and I am not Julie your Cruise Director.

It takes patience mind you. It’s so much faster to just do it yourself. So be prepared for clothes to be folded differently, dishes to be placed in a different part of the dishwasher, beds to be made haphazardly and so on. The point isn’t for it to be done perfectly. The point is for them to get used to doing it and be a part of the family that takes care of the house. Over time things will get better. Just get them involved. That’s the goal at this point. And for them to recognize just how much effort it takes to do it all.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go get someone to vacuum under the coach cushions.

What type of chore systems do you have at YOUR house? Would love to hear how other dads handle it.

 

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iPhone Hangups

I feel like an old man when I tell my kids, “When I was a kid we didn’t have these fancy smancy ‘iPhones.” We had to turn a big dial with holes in it with our index finger and the phone was connected to the WALL.”

Their response: “You’re totally making that up dad!”

Look, I get it. Technology is wonderful and our ability to connect with people is easier than ever. However, I think sometimes we become slaves to our gadgets and at some point we need to ensure that this doesn’t happen to our kids. Too often our ability to communicate face to face is lost as we find safety in sending a text rather than speaking to a real person. Case in point; kids with phones. The very idea that someone under the age of 16 would have their own phone was a hard pill for me to swallow. But in our efforts to keep up with the Joneses and the influences of society we as parents are now adding to the family budget the expense of our kids having a phone. We use the excuse of “well they need to be able to stay in touch in case something happens.” Which is true. ButImage how much of it is luxury and how much of it is necessity?

As a divorced parent, I know I like being able to communicate with my kids when they’re with their mother. I know their mom feels the same way. And I most definitely believe it helps the kids knowing they’re able to stay connected with both of us at all times. So when a little text comes to me from “Favorite Daughter” saying, “I LOVE YOU DADDY,” you know I reply immediately, “I love you too!” so that she knows I’m there whenever she needs me.

But there is a danger here if the kids are given carte blanche with their new gadget. If left to themselves, they will bury their faces in that damn screen and be lost for hours. At one point the only way I could get my oldest child down for dinner was to send her a text letting her know it was on the table. I also noticed an attitude emerging as she was texting continuously for days with her friends rather than communicating with her family. She would hole herself up in her room and just disappear for hours. Even if you’re communicating with others, if you’re physically by yourself, to me you’re still very much alone.

And so we made some changes. Now when she gets home from school she is given an hour with the phone. When she uses that hour, is completely up to her, but it’s one hour and nothing more. Now, this was just implemented recently so the jury is still deliberating the effectiveness, but I will tell you so far it seems to be working. She has handed the phone over upon entering the house each day and used her hour at the very end of the day. So far she has been hanging out with her siblings and me watching TV, doing homework downstairs, shooting baskets in the driveway and just chasing her brother and sister around the house. She has been more respectful to everyone and much more willing to go with the flow.

Is this all due to the new rule? Hard to tell, but I personally think it’s two pronged. First, she’s pulled away from the glow of the phone. Second, I’m basically telling her I want to hang out with her. She needs to feel that. 2014-02-22 14.59.41-1Letting her be by herself I think tells her just the opposite. I remember one day I told my oldest daughter that I didn’t like that she was spending so much time alone in her room. She said, “Hey I asked you if you wanted to go throw the softball around and you said you were busy.” Ouch. She had me there. What could I say? Opportunity lost.

I think it speaks to a child’s need for limits, their desire for us to set them and that if we don’t make a point of engaging them, something else will. They need us to structure their lives to some degree and teach them a basic rule that my kids here on a daily basis; “All things in moderation.” They also need human contact and if we don’t give it to them they’ll find a way to get it even if it’s through a piece of metal. A phone is indeed a luxury and in my opinion can be a dangerous one. I mean, come on, how many of us ‘adults’ have lost an hour playing Words With Friends or some mindless other game on our smart phone? Imagine that distraction in a kid’s hand. So if you see your kid’s face buried in that little screen don’t hesitate to consider some guidelines. Stop and recognize that looking through that window for extended periods of time cannot be healthy.

Bottom line: “FaceTime” is cool … “Face to Face” time is better.

 

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Extended School Hours!

The last (we hope) arctic blast of the 2014 winter closed our schools Monday and Tuesday of this week. With all signs pointing to school kicking back into gear tomorrow I informed the kids that I’d received an important update from their principle. I told them they were extending school hours tomorrow to make up for the lost time.

“Dad’s kidding,” my middle child said. “Really I said?” Then I pulled out my phone and acted as if I were reading the e-mail.

It says, “To make up for the past two days, we will be adding a second lunch and extending classes until 7:30 pm both Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Parents should also include a third snack for all elementaryScreenshot 2014-03-04 21.28.18 students as well as an extra drink. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but felt it would be better to make up the time now rather than jeopardize our spring break later this month.” 

“That’s SO NOT FAIR!” “Are you KIDDING ME?!” “NO, NOT GONNA DO IT!”

“Hey,” I said, “would you rather miss spring break?” 

“FINE!” Was the last thing I heard. 

I went about cleaning up the kitchen after dinner and getting the kids to take their showers, etc. Just a normal wrapping up of the day. I’d thought they had caught on or that they’d at least ask again if I was kidding. But then, as I was tucking my nine-year-old in for the night she said, “I can’t believe I have to stay at school until 7:30 tomorrow.” 

“I was just kidding sweetheart,” I said. 

“REALLY? Yea!!!” 

Annnnnndddd … scene.

 

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Kid Tips

 

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Too Young To Date?

Sing it with me, “She is 13 going on 29.” Honestly, you couldn’t pay me enough money to be an eleven-year-old in today’s society. The peer expectations and influences are mind blowing. The idea of dating has actually come up in our households. It’s also coming up in our daughter’s friends households and I’m sure there are different opinions in every home if not more than one. Couple that with the fact that our kids are inundated with messages on television and on-line that are down right scary; and you’ve got quite a challenge. As parents it can be difficult to stick to your guns on the topic. So I started putting some thoughts on paper and came up with 10 tips that may (or may not) help.

1. You know as well as anyone that our kids are great at making it sound like everyone else’s parents are “OK with it.” Well, trust me, they’re not. Just call and ask them. They’re likely in the same boat as you are. A goodyes relationship with your kid’s friends’ parents is golden. Support each other as much as you can. Or if nothing else, let them know the rules in YOUR house so that they’re aware because I guarantee you your daughter’s friend has said “Her dad said it’s OK.”

2. It’s OK to make your ten-year-old delete their “Vine” and “SnapChat” apps. I’m sorry, but they’re not appropriate for a nine or eleven-year-old. I don’t care who else has them. Some of the videos and images shared on these platforms are down right offensive. And I can’t think of any reason a ten-year-old would need to ensure an image is gone after a few minutes. Why go there?

3. I’m a firm believer that every kid, as much as they argue and battle, like knowing that you’re all up in their “stuff” when it comes to their personal lives. That doesn’t mean you have to be hateful about it. Just a part of it. They want to know you care enough to stick your nose in their business. I also believe whole hardily that they need and “want” us to help them say no, because on their own they feel pressured and overwhelmed. Knowing they can use us as an excuse to say no is not a bad thing. Again, that doesn’t mean you have to be mean or a jerk about it. Just subtly let them know you’re watching and involved.

4. Trust your gut, but be open to giving a little. It’s important for your eleven-year-old to learn how to interact with the opposite sex appropriately. If we can encourage boy/girl friendships and give them opportunities to learn to respect and appreciate each other as more than just the opposite sex at an early age I think it’s a win / win. Because in a couple of years their bodies and hormones are going to take over and they’re not going to be thinking straight.

5. Now more than ever you need to put aside your differences and work out a mutually agreed upon plan of
action with your ex in terms of how you’re going to approach dating and your pre-teen. If your kid knows their mom and dad are unified and that both are going to be communicating and sharing, it’s a huge coup. the-delicates-too-young-to-date-londonConversely, if they feel left to themselves to figure it out or learn that they can play mom and dad against each other, I can’t imagine it working out well.

6. It’s going to mean giving up your free time and off-nights, but be open to being there as a parental chaperone for group get togethers perhaps even along with your ex. It’ll drive your daughter crazy but as a dad (and mom), this is a great compromise; “Sure, you can go as a group to the movie, as long as I’m there too.” And if you go, don’t make a big deal about it or be an ass. Just be there.

7. Listen. Just listen. Don’t wait until it’s a big discussion or argument. Make a point of opening the floor to your kids at an early age over tea before bedtime, or at the dinner table. And just listen. You’ll be surprised at what they’re willing to share once they get rolling.

8. Don’t be ignorant. Don’t believe for a second that if you ignore it it’ll go away. Your kids are being exposed to things we didn’t see until we were much older. And I’m sorry, but you can’t protect them from what their friends are sharing and talking about. Don’t think for a second that just because you’re not talking about it that they’re not aware of it. And if you stick your heals (and head) in the sand and wait until they’re sixteen to talk about it, brother you’re going to be in for a big surprise.

9. Educate yourself. Do your best to keep up with the latest apps and what kids are talking about. Your kids find things on-line. So can you. Learn what’s influencing them. Don’t just send them off into the world without fully understanding to the best of your ability what they (and you) are up against.

10. Baby steps work best. So start now. Don’t wait until she (or he) is fifteen.

Remember, the underlying tone here is, this shouldn’t be about sex. This should be about learning how to be social on expanded fronts. That said, as a dad I don’t think it’s a bad thing to start talking to your daughter about how stupid boys get when they’re thirteen and around girls and why they get stupid. Give your daughter some perspective and teach her that she too should have as much control over a situation as anyone. It’s good to be trusting, but in some situations having your guard up isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And please, PLEASE, teach your sons to respect girls. Don’t let them be stupid or ignorant just because they’re boys. That’s not an excuse. Educate them. It’s your job. Above all, don’t be stupid yourself believing that your boys and girls are perfect angels. Because they’re not. No matter how smart or good they are, they’re still going to be dealing with hormones, peer pressure and ignorance. Don’t be afraid to be the adult. And remember, every kid has a different capacity for understanding. You should know best what your child can handle.

This is a touchy subject I know. And everyone has their own opinions of what’s appropriate at what ages. But I think the more open we can be about it and the more we can stand up as parents and guide our children appropriately starting at an early age, the more chance we have of getting our kids into adulthood with an appreciation for each other. Lord knows the internet can at times send the wrong messages. We need to be there to help them decipher those messages and understand self control, boundaries and rules can be a good thing.

Good luck! We’re rootin’ for you!

 

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