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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Scream Like A Little Girl

Just when you’re ready to throw your hands up in defeat; as you’re pulling out the white flag and preparing to throw the towel into the middle of the ring; as if the gods recognize you’ve hit your limit; victory.

There is no thrill on this earth quite like the thrill of watching your child overcome immense hurdles. As a parent, you struggle to help them past adversity, to work through fears and get past the b.s. their world throws at them. There are times when you just don’t see it happening and you’re convinced you’ve completely screwed up as a parent and your kid is doomed to a life of wedgies, disappointments and therapy.

But I’m here to tell you dad, they achieve, they grow, they overcome and they fly. Don’t beat yourself up over a moment of frustration when you’re convinced the game is over. Just hang in there. Keep being supportive. Keep encouraging. Throw one more pitch. Loop it, tuck it and pull the lace through one more time. Help them up off the pavement and get their feet on the pedals for one more go. Perhaps the toughest part is knowing when to hold their hand and when to be tough on them. Sometimes they need to sit out a bit when they themselves get frustrated. Chances are not only do you have an opportunity to teach them how to hit a ball, but how to handle anxiety and anger as well. And maybe you’ll learn something about yourself in the process. The hard part is learning to find that balance between pushing and coddling; encouraging and enabling.

As a dad it can drive a man crazy waiting for it all to click. We have internalized preconceived notions of how brilliant our kids are going to be and when it doesn’t jive, we can have our own little meltdowns. When we’ve gone over something 10,000 times or don’t understand why our kid is afraid of moths. But just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

I’m sure you’ll run into other parents who may look at you and say you’re overprotective, or maybe you’re pushing too hard or not enough. We all have opinions. But the truth is, you and their mom know your child better than anyone. That’s not to say it doesn’t hurt to get advice and input from others who may have some good insights. But end of the day, you and their mom know the best way to get them from point A to point B. Communicate when you can because you’re likely to find you’re both struggling with the same issues when it comes to the kids.

But don’t give up. I tell you this, for one day the light bulb will go off. You will see their little face light up with excitement as they “GET IT!” They will look to you with eyes wide open. Their eyes will lock on to yours because you’ve seen them through it and it means the world to them that you acknowledge this breakthrough with them.

Celebrate it with them. Live it with them. Share the smile.

When my son hit the ball after 7824 pitches during practice the other day. I screamed like a little girl at a Justin Bieber concert. And when he picked up the grounder at third and nailed the throw to first base you’d have thought the Bills had won the Super Bowl. In both instances he immediately turned, searched me out and smiled big and bright as the sun. And I, thumb firmly up, smiled back. No one else in the bleachers knew what it took for him to get there. But I did. And so did he. And despite being fifty yards away from each other, we celebrated together with our own internal happy dance.

And it was a good day.

 

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Batter (and credit card) UP!!!

When my ex-wife suggested we sign the girls up for softball I was reluctant at first. Our oldest was head over heals in love with horseback and the middle one a Barbie nut with little interest in athletics. And when we mentioned the idea to the kids, there was a significant amount of backlash. But I liked the idea of them being a part of a team and trying something new. I’m a firm believer that our job as parents is to expose our kids to as many different things as possible to help them figure out what they like or don’t like. We’ve found that typically, the more against something they are, the more they end up loving it. And so off we went. And of course, it took all of one afternoon throwing and hitting the ball around to get our son interested in joining the action and so it was that we had three new all-stars ready for training camp.

Once the excitement of the decision wore off it was time to sign everyone up. Now, as anyone who has more than one kid knows, when it comes to things like camp, clothes, backpacks, shoes, lunch, snacks and sports, whatever something costs you get to multiply it by the number of kids you have. So baseball registration wasn’t $120, it was $360. A potential glove wasn’t $60 it was $180. A new bat wouldn’t cost $70, it would cost $210. I could go on, but you get the idea. I quickly saw an investment of $1000 staring me in the face just to have my kid standing in left field picking his nose.

We decided to do some reconnaissance at a few different sporting goods stores to see exactly what we were in for. To set the scene, it was me and three kids all having panic attacks as all three started choosing their bats, helmets, gloves, cleats and gear bags. The cash register in my head was going at warp speed and the world was collapsing around me. Meanwhile the kids were quickly falling into a shopping feeding frenzy while dad was getting cold sweats and the shakes. Needless to say, we struck out.

“WHOA!” I said. “Let’s think about this for a second.” So I called my ex and asked for her thoughts on what
was appropriate since our agreement when we got divorced was that we would always split these types of expenses to the best of our abilities. And so a budget was established and the idea was suggested that we
shop around, starting at Play it Again Sports. This would help give us a sense of what was reasonable and
there would be no shock when the final tally was presented. We also decided to wait until after the first
practices so that we’d know what size bat would be best, what type of helmet would be appropriate and so on.

The other thing to consider was, we weren’t sure whether this would become a long term thing or not. The last thing we wanted to do was spend a bunch of money on gear only to have it sit in the garage after one season. So after the first practice for each of our rug rats, we hit the streets again, this time starting at Play it Again Sports. And low and behold, we hit pay dirt. There were plenty of bats to choose from for $10.00 and helmets for $5 – $10. While the eldest, as usual, “balked” a bit at the idea of used gear, the two younger ones loved it and dove into trying on helmets and swinging bats. We compromised with the oldest and went to Target, Walmart, Academy Sports etc. just to see what other options there were and eventually purchased things at several different places.

We agreed on new gloves for all three as this seemed like a staple and would be something they’d use whether or not they played in a league and found some pretty nice ones for under $25.00 at Academy Sports. We bought the oldest one a new helmet knowing that the speeds of the balls at her level would be higher and I wasn’t going to skimp on head protection, but still managed to come in under $25.00 at Target. I also found some great helmets at Dick’s Sporting Goods that were reasonably priced. The other two found great used ones for $5 each. Homerun!

The point to all of this is that you’re going to spend some money, but don’t panic (like I initially did). There are options if you’re smart about it. The initial shock of $99.00 bats (x3) and $75.00 gloves (x3)  were enough to cause me to hyperventilate. Taking a step back and asking some questions and doing a little research really paid off and easily saved us hundreds of dollars. And the kids were thrilled.

Whether you’re divorced or not, getting kids involved in sports can be pricey. It’s just plain smart to look around before you dive into purchasing gear or saying “NO!” There are also parent swaps where you can find great deals on used cleats and gear. There’s craigslist.com, used sporting goods stores, e-bay; all sorts of options.

And honestly, the kids could care less. Especially if you establish a budget with them and show them that, if they’re smart they can get a gear bag, bat, glove, batting gloves, helmet, shirt, balls and a pack of bubble gum, all for the same price of a new higher end bat. Even our oldest, who complained about the used bat, fell it love with it once she got home, cleaned it off and had one of the coaches ask, “Where’d you find that bat?! That’s a beaut!”

Then, if one or two of them or even all three stick with it and determine they’re really into it we’ll invest in better equipment that keeps up with their skill level. Meanwhile, they get to learn the basics while we get to enjoy the games and still have money left over for a hot dog and soft pretzel.

And the best part? It isn’t necessarily about the gear, saving money, or the sports themselves. My favorite part of all of this is that the three of them, for the first time EVER have something they ALL enjoy doing and can do together. It gives us a chance to teach them about being a team and supporting each other. In fact, the first time our son yelled, “NICE HIT!” to our oldest I smiled a little inside. I also acknowledged it was worth all the effort and every penny, making me a little less hesitant to “play ball!”

 

 

 

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“Whoa There Partner!!”

So you’ve worked hard since your divorce to pick yourself up and face the world again. You’ve transformed your mindset, taken the high road and grown in so many positive ways. Your outlook has been better, you’re happier, calmer, more content and more at ease. It wasn’t easy, but you managed to see the world from a new perspective and met every challenge head on. You’ve battled negativity and overcome hurdles you never thought you’d ever manage to conquer. You’re approaching anxiety calmly and with a cool head. You’ve remained unrattled even in the most chaotic scenarios. You feel like a new person and you’re convinced you’re on your way to a happier healthier life.

Then this morning you woke up angry, short tempered, frustrated and convinced it’s all falling to pieces. What the hell happened? How is it possible? Where’d the new you go? Now you’re mad at yourself for being mad. And so it reverberates.

But here’s the difference. You’re aware of it. You’ve noticed it. That didn’t happen in the past. The mere fact that you’re recognizing the difference is huge. It’s a new level of consciousness and one that will allow you to weather this emotional storm.

Consider the pace you’ve been going. You’ve accomplished things you’ve never dreamed possible. But you’re only human and at some point your mind and body are going to say, “whoaaa there partner.” It’s inevitable that your system will eventually shut down and require a recharge. If you’re like me, when you’re flying and are forced to stop for a moment, it can be frustrating. You feel momentum and don’t want to stop. But some times we need to pull over and allow our systems to recuperate.

I’ve never been one to believe in the affects of chemical imbalances. But I’ll tell you, my mind is shifting. When you are constantly doing an introspection, considering every aspect of your being and what’s changing day to day, it’s easy to see that something as simple as increasing your intake of water can have a huge affect on your mind and body. Don’t laugh. Try drinking 3 cups of coffee a day for six months and then cutting yourself off. Tell me your body doesn’t reject the idea.

So, you’ve hit a snag. Don’t panic. Give yourself a chance to regroup. Take a few days to give your mind a reprise. Take care of yourself. Workout, drink plenty of water, let the phone go to voice mail, shut off the computer and if you can, spend some time focused completely on the kids. See if in a week or so you don’t feel a difference. I once wrote about life coming and going in waves. Just consider this to be one of those waves you need to ride out. Look for things that may be causing those waves and address them; calmly and thoughtfully. You’ll feel better about yourself again and find yourself headed for calmer waters.

As I’ve said in the past, there really is no finish line. Congratulate yourself on reaching this new plateau of self awareness. To be at a point that you can recognize a shift in your approach is a big deal. It means you’ve probably come farther than you even recognized. So stop, take a deep breathe and just contemplate the amazing things that lie ahead as you continue to grow and move forward.

Peace!

– Side note: As you know. I’m not a therapist. I don’t have a degree in psychology. I only know what I’ve experienced first hand and share it with you in hopes that it may help you through what can be a difficult transition. If you find yourself continuing to have bouts of anger, frustration or depression over long stretches I would strongly urge you to seek the help of someone who is more equipped to get to what could be a deeper root. Meanwhile, give yourself a break. Recognize that you’re human and need to stop from time to time and recharge. This is not a journey to be taken alone. You owe it to yourself to fInd a friend or if you feel it’s necessary, a professional to talk to. 

 

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I’m So BORED!!!

I recently reposted a newspaper clipping on the LAADD facebook page that spoke to a child’s inability to deal with boredom and not knowing what to do or where to go when they had down time. It seemed appropriate to me only because I had just endured a summer in which my kids required a lot of hands on management as my ex-wife and I juggled life and child care.

When you’re a parent I think it’s natural to feel like you need to provide your children with plenty of different experiences. I know my ex and I make a point of exposing our kids to a lot of different places and activities. Our first born was out of the house and introduced to the outdoors and the community no more than a week or so after being born. We’ve always done everything we can to give the kids a sense that the world is a place to explore and enjoy and make a point of providing them with opportunities to experience people, places and nature first hand. And yet, as freelancers, our lives and budgets sometimes dictate that responsibilities are what they are and the kids are required to entertain themselves.

And so comes summer. Life for a parent doesn’t stop when school lets out. We still have jobs and deadlines. There’s no final bell ringing and you never see staffs running out of the building throwing their employee manuals to the side dancing ala High School Musical. (Although that would be pretty awesome). But the reality for most people is, we have to figure out what to do with our kids for a span of 8-10 weeks. When I was a kid it meant playing with friends in the neighborhood, riding bikes, pick up baseball games and watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. But that was 35 years ago. Our society today seems hell bent on making a parent feel guilty if their kid isn’t involved in at least 5 extra curricular activities at a time and playing soccer or in their first dance recital by age three. And of course for summer, there may be a plethora of camps to choose from that are supposed to help provide parents with child care while offering kids something fun do to. But the truth is they’re typically scheduled mid day requiring us to drop the kids off at 9 and pick them up at 1 or 2 which is REAL convenient when you have a real job, but then that’s a whole nother post.

Getting back to summer. As the summer was coming to a close, I myself marveled at all that the kids and we as a family had done. There were horse camps, fashion camps, soccer camps and school summer rec camps which included field trips to a water park, the zoo and public pools. We also made a few road trips to go tubing, fishing, swimming, and smoring, (um … it’s a word.) And yet, as the out of school fiasco came to a close, there were rumblings of discontent with summer being labeled as a boring uneventful 8-10 weeks.

Um, what?

My mental, emotional, financial and physical exhaustion would suggest otherwise. OK. So did we go to Disneyland? No. Did we take a 2 week road trip to Yosemite? No. Did we break bread with the Dalai Lama? Did we swim with dolphins? Nope. (A lot of Carp maybe, but sadly not dolphins). Regardless, from my perspective, all things considered it had been a pretty cool summer break filled with a lot of cool experiences, plenty of diverse activities and most of all a lot of family time. And to me that’s what was most important; especially now that we were fully entrenched in a two home family, the fact that the kids had a lot of time with both their mom and me.

I was so taken aback by some of it and the fact that, even after all of the efforts my ex-wife and I had put in to ensuring our kids had a great summer, there were still those who felt it wasn’t enough. My response? I suggested we all go out for dinner to celebrate the end of summer. But before we did, everyone had to write down their top 10 favorite moments of their vacation. We all then sat down together, including my ex-wife, at what has become our “celebratory restauran,” and recanted all of the events that shaped the summer.

My goal was to refresh everyone’s memories. By reminiscing and laughing as we thought about different things we did and reminding each other of certain moments many of us forgot about; perhaps we could refocus on all of the great family time we shared. We’d be able to recognize the efforts that went in to making sure everyone got to their camps on time and realize just how much was accomplished during the past few months. I also wanted to have a chance to remind the kids how fortunate they were to have the opportunities they were provided.

Once we’d gone through our lists and began remembering all of the events that had taken place in a the span of a couple of months, my ex then suggested the kids pick out one or two things that we’d like to try and do NEXT summer. So everyone thought a bit and wrote down a couple of summer vacation goals. So rather than them being things we didn’t get to do THIS year, they became things we’ll get to do NEXT year.

And it all seemed to work. As everyone read through their lists, it was obvious we had each forgotten about a few things. By the end of it our middle child had amended her own list which was now her top “25” favorite moments. Even our oldest, who came to the table with an attitude about the “lamest summer ever,” left laughing about some of her favorite moments from the summer and excited about next year’s break.

So let’s think a second about what it mean to entertain our kids. Do we hold some amount of responsibility to provide our kids with activities and experiences? I think to some extent we do. But I also think we have just as much of a responsibility to make them aware of what it takes to create those opportunities. That life isn’t just a
big carnival every day. As Laurie Helgoe Ph.D. writes in her book, “Introvert Power,” we as parents have just as much of responsibility to teach our kids how to enjoy solitude and down time. That we need to teach them the joy of quiet and the ability to sit alone in a room and read a book and feel as much enjoyment and
fulfillment as when they’re out on the lake tubing. I agree with that. Life is about balance and understanding that we work hard, play hard and should also relax hard.

Whether you’re married or divorced, you have a life. A life filled with responsibilities, pressures and deadlines. Keeping our kids entertained should not be one of those pressures. After all, we aren’t cruise directors. At the same time we should show our kids that despite the negative aspects of life, it can be fun and we owe it to them to show them the value of cutting loose once in a while. And of course we owe it to ourselves to take a
break and enjoy this time with them as well.

Is it easy to go overboard in our attempt to keep up with the Jones’s? Yup. Do we occasionally let guilt push us over the limit sometimes? U-huh. Do we suffer from our own peer pressure to entertain our kids with a trip to Disneyland? Sure. I think that’s a lesson for all parents. At some point, we need to recognize that it’s o.k. to say no and teach our kids the art of not only entertaining themselves but by making a point to add responsibilities to the list of summer “fun” things to do. Again, it’s about balance. Easier said than done sometimes, especially when your kid is proclaiming out of sheer agony how “BORED” they are. But that’s an opportunity for us to teach them how to become “UN-bored.” Give a man a fish, teach a man TO fish, yadda yadda yadda; Go mow the neighborhood lawns to help pay for our trip to Florida.

I can only hope that as they get back to school and share their summer experiences with their friends that they’ll realize even more just how amazing the past several weeks have been and be reminded of how fortunate  we are to, above all, still be a family.

 

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Cream and Sugar?

When you’re a lone wolf in-line ordering donuts and coffee, life is grand. “I’ll have two vanilla cream and a triple triple please.” Ah. Order to first sip in 30 seconds. That’s livin’ man. Those were good times. I almost remember them.

As a parent, we’ve all been there. In line with kids at a fast food restaurant attempting to make sense out of chaos. Who wants what, the toys, the drinks, everyone wants to sit somewhere else. All three want to eat somewhere different. And you can always count on at least one deciding they want to eat somewhere else out of a weak attempt to be in control. We forget that much of the public can’t relate and have no idea why we can’t control the situation better. They don’t understand that 9 times out of 10 it’s fine. They just happen to be witnessing that one day when the perfect storm is brewing. And even parents who CAN relate, enjoy watching someone else suffer for a change.

The drive-thru isn’t much better. Who hasn’t been in the car with hungry kids trying to determine who wants nuggets, burgers, Sprite, fries, sweet and sour, root beer, apples, smoothies, salad, lemonade, barbecue, six-piece, four-piece, wait I want nuggets, no fish, no, nuggets, wait, burger, hold on, no I want nuggets; just waiting for the Soup Nazi to bellow through the speaker; “NO FRIES FOR YOU!!!”

And so it was one recent morning that my son and I decided to go it alone to my favorite donut shop and pick up breakfast for about 8 people. Yes, on occasion my kids have donuts for breakfast. I know, I’m an awful dad. They eat their fair share of veggies, fruits and whole grains as well. So when you only get to Tim Horton’s twice a year, you splurge a little. But moving on.

Attempting to ensure I got what everyone likes I began the mental game of going person by person in my head as my son kept pointing to and interrupting me with his own choices which changed every 30
seconds. Behind me stood an older blue collar gentleman dressed for a day of hammering, sawing, and caulking. He stood there patiently as I got through the breakfast sandwich orders, drink orders, hash browns etc. He didn’t bat an eye as I attempted to remember who liked sausage and eggs, ham and
eggs, or bacon and eggs. Even smiled as I attempted to pick out all twelve donuts, changing my mind several times as I considered each shiny little face and whether they would want pink or blue sprinkles, strawberry, maple or chocolate icing, jelly or cream and if cream would they want vanilla, bavarian or boston cream, or just a plain old fashioned, no frills donut.

He then hummed a little impromptu ditty as I got through the 2 cream, 1 sugar, no wait, 3 creams, 2 sugars, or was it 1 cream, 2 sugar coffee orders, the almost forgotten muffin, yogurt, water, and milk. I was sure when I added one more hash brown to the order after everything was done I’d get him to at least offer a gentle cough of dis-approvement. (I know it’s not a word, but as the author I get creative license) But he just stood there. Calm as a cucumber.

By the time we were finished it had easily been about 15 minutes. And at no time did the man ever bat an eye. He just stood there waiting patiently, calmly and with a genuine air of understanding as my son tugged on my shirt desperate to ensure I got him a chocolate milk not white.

As the cashier was totaling everything up, I turned to the man and asked him politely what he was getting. “Just a coffee,” he said. I looked at the cashier and told her, “Whatever he wants it’s on me.” He initially refused, but I insisted, thanking him for his patience. Because, the way I see it, we reward our kids for good behavior, why not reward the village too?

 

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