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Monthly Archives: January 2013

I Suck as a Dad!

Come on. You’ve said it at least once. And while in most cases you were probably being hard on yourself, on occasion it was probably true. And you know what? That’s OK. You know what else? It’s going to happen again. And that’s OK too. mistakes11

Being a dad isn’t about being perfect and always having the answers. If your goal is to be the perfect dad you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s that simple. If your goal is to be there for your kids and for them to know you love them then you’re on the right track.

I personally think it’s important for kids to see us fail. They need to see us suck at being parents now and again. They also need to see us forgive ourselves and move past it. Because when it happens, they know it. There’s no denying it and they’re not stupid. So don’t try to cover it up. But be mature enough to recognize it, admit it and then acknowledge and move on and make the right choices moving forward. For a kid to see you recover from a mistake, own it and then move on let’s them know that it’s OK to be human as long as you recognize it and make the proper adjustments.

You’re going to burn the toast (and then try to hide it with more butter). You’re going to misjudge. You’re going to get the wrong kind of bread (or not the kind mom buys). You’re going to forget to send in the permission slip. You’re images-5going to ruin their favorite sweater by putting it in the dryer. You’re going to miss a call now and then or blame the wrong kid. You’re even going to over react once in a while (hard to believe I know). We all have bad days and take it out on the kids by yelling at them for not cleaning their room. You’re going to hurt their feelings on occasion. The truth is we all lose it. But how we lose it is up to us. And how we recover is also up to us. How we react to the negativity, to our mistakes, to our downfalls is being watched very closely.

Listen, sucking as a parent is an art form. One that comes quite easily to most of us. So welcome to the club. It’s a very, very, very large club. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat with my head in my hands as I’ve envisioned one of my kids in a therapist’s office recanting the events of the past thirty minutes. I’ve beaten myself up more than once for how I handled a situation knowing I could have done better and need to do better next time. No one’s been harder on me than me (yes even harder than my ex wife). And that’s usually about the time one of the kids comes over, gives me a hug and says, “it’s OK dad.” It’s then that I realize maybe I’m not doing that bad a job after all.

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s All Downhill From Here

Being born in Western, NY, I grew up with snow. Hence, many of the stories I tell my kids about my childhood involve snow and lots of it. It’s something I think every kid should experience and something I want my kids to know. I want them to know what it feels like to fall face first in it or go, what feels like 120 mph, completely out of control down a hill with 30 mph winds blowing fresh powder in their face. I want them to have a memory ofchesnutridge6 rolling around in 18 inches of fresh pack powder and then defrosting in front of a warm fire, only to go back out into the frozen tundra for another round. I want them to feel huge snowflakes on their eyelashes as they walk up a hill listening to the crunch of the snow packing under their footsteps.

Unfortunately, being that we live in the south those are hard memories to come by.  So every year around this time my kids and I watch the weather forecast in Buffalo, NY very closely. And upon the first sign of a good lake effort storm we pack our bags, grab a new set of long johns, boots, gloves and anything else we may be missing and stay glued to the Weather Channel App. And when it hits, no matter when it is, we jump in the jeep and we head north.

It takes a lot of effort on everyone’s part to make the trip work. Driving that many hours crammed in something other than a mini-van is not something I would recommend for anyone with a weak stomach. But having traveled as much as our kids have in their short lives, they’ve become pros. So they burry their heads in DVD’s, i-pod touches, and Nooks and buckle in for the long journey demanding I go through the drive thru to save 20 minutes. After twelve hours on the road, we usually commandeer an unsuspecting family member’s home. We then proceed to partake in winterpalooza and enjoy two or three days of non-stop sledding, snowman building, chestnutridge5chicken wing eating, snowball fighting and hot chocolate drinking. It’s become a tradition and this year was no different.

I won’t lie. It’s an effort. Twelve hours (both ways) in tight quarters all for the sake of a few hours of playing in the white fluffy stuff is a test for any family. But I’ll tell you. It’s worth it. To hear the first exclamation of “LOOK SNOW!” as we head into Ohio. The giggles of anticipation. To witness the first snowball thrown during a routine stop for fuel and bathroom breaks. And then to see them all bundled up in their snow pants, boots, gloves, scarves, hats and mittens. Ready to brave mother nature’s fury. It’s just amazing and worth every mile.

There was one point on the third day when we had stopped for our last day of sledding. Wind gusts were 50 mph off the lake and it was only about 20 degrees out. One of the kids refused to get out of the car. But I had promised the other two they could have one more day so I literally picked the disgruntled snow bunny out of the car and carried her to the lodge. Three hours later she was the one pleading for one more time down the hill. And that’s how it goes. Part of the trip isn’t just about the experience of the snow and the environment. It’s about continually demonstrating to the kids what happens when you push yourself a bit. When you go outsidechestnutridge4 your comfort zone and try something you otherwise would forgo in leu of sitting on the couch watching an episode of i-Carly.

To accomplish that, we as parents sometimes have to push ourselves as well and go outside our own comfort zones. In the process we ourselves gain experiences we otherwise would never know the joy of. If I’m thankful for anything, it’s not just the memories of playing in the snow. It’s about the experiences I’ve had because of the kids who pushed me to do things I myself would have never attempted. All for the sake of ensuring they themselves had the chance to try something different.

One thing my ex and I agree on is that memories and experiences far outshine things. It’s not always easy, especially when life gets crazy. But I think it’s important to make these kinds of events the highest priority. Jobs will come and go. Tests can be retaken. Bills will always be there waiting. But their seventh year will only happen once. And then they’ll be going off to college; eventually telling their own kids about their childhood memories. Today is the day to create those memories.

If there was ever anything worth the effort. It’s creating moments for your kids that will last a lifetime. For us one of those memories will be snow.

 

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Tea Time!

As parents, it’s easy to get lost in our day, our obligations, our deadlines and just assume the kids will entertain themselves and each other. In the process we often miss golden opportunities to maintain a dialogue with our kids that no doubt we’ll be wishing we had 8-10 years from now when they’re older.

So never underestimate the power of turning off the computer or television about half an hour before your kid’s bedtime and sitting down with them to share a cup of tea or hot chocolate. And if you’re smart, you’ll eventually learn to just sit there, shut up, sip your tea and listen for twenty nine of the thirty minuteskhashayar20101010152119700

Mind you, I’m not an expert by any means. Just a dad trying to learn how to raise three kids and maintain a positive relationship with all three of them. In doing so I typically notice something just about every day that I can do better. One of those things is listening. I’ve sucked at it for as long as I can remember and have to continually be aware of when I’m failing to give someone their proper minutes. And to a child of 7 or 10 or 14 or 45, I think sometimes that’s all they’re asking for. For someone to listen and to take their thoughts and opinions seriously.

About a year ago my daughters and I started having “tea time with dad” just before bedtime. It wasn’t anything extraordinary. Just a chance to end the day together and share a moment where the rest of the world was shut out. From time to time it now includes my son as well, although it’s usually hot cocoa not tea. Over time it’s turned into one of my favorite parts of the week. It’s especially special when it turns into a simple one on one sipping.

There are times I just sit and listen in amazement at the amount of “stuff” my kids have absorbed, even at
tv_turnoff_week_image-copysuch a tender age, and just how much is racing around up there. I can’t help but smile and even laugh out loud at times as I witness how they process all of the information they’re capturing throughout the day. Their perspectives are truly amazing and eye opening as they provide insights into what’s important to them and how they view the world, their mom, their school, their neighbors, their bus driver, their friends and me.

My kids have a lot to say and there are times I ask them to keep their thoughts to themselves, especially when
those thoughts are hateful or demeaning. So providing them with a safe environment to open up, knowing
they’re not going to get a lecture or a rebuttal in response has proven to be a win / win on several levels.

As you’ve probably noticed if you read this blog on a regular basis, I would never divulge details about anything my kids share with me. But the content of our tea time discussions isn’t what’s important here. It’s the simple concept of shutting out the world for 30 minutes so that it’s just two or three minds connected and sharing thoughts, concerns, fears, dreams and opinions about music, clothes, pets, or whatever comes to mind. What you hear may not even make sense to you all the time. But I’m sure we don’t make sense to them all the time either. The point is maintaining a connection, letting them know they’re loved and appreciated and teaching them the power of sharing and listening. If you’re lucky, you’ll learn that and then some yourself.

Peace!

 

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Left Wing, Right Wing, Chicken Wing!

Congratulations. You made it through the holidays and 2012.

As many will attest, the holidays can be a stressful time. It’s perhaps one of the most stressful times of the year, particularly if you’re divorced with kids. As a single parent you wear the stress of many people, not just
end-of-2013-start-of-2013_shutterstockyour own. Along with the joy of dealing with the solitude when you don’t have the kids, carrying the full load when you do have them, finding time to shop for presents and then wrapping them, juggling schedules, school breaks, stretching finances; everyone around you is equally stressed out creating levels of anxiety you never dreamed existed.

The kids of course are experiencing a great deal of their own stress. In many cases it means the majority of their vacation is spent on the road, visiting more than one family, adjusting to a major holiday without mom and dad together and dividing what time they do have between both mom and dad. In some cases it also means trying to understand why mom and dad may be getting along but aren’t together as we do our best to create a harmonious environment to ensure their holiday memories are good ones.

There are family members who are stressed because they don’t understand your situation necessarily and don’t know how to act around you. There are others who; despite your reassurances that everything is fine; ask you 76 times if you’re “really” alright and worry about how you’re handling it all or how the kids are coping.

6a267e83118d66269156e45fd180e4b2-dog-feels-bad-for-knocking-over-christmas-treeAt work; staff and clients are stressed out as everyone is trying to get things done before the break and their moods are swinging back and forth as they deal with their own multitude of home holiday stresses which of course filters its way to your office.

The checkout girl at Kroger glares at you when you have the audacity to ask for paper instead of plastic because SHE’s stressed from all of the overtime hours, the kid who just dumped a dozed eggs all over aisle 9 and not being able to find the little bar thing that separates everyone’s groceries on the conveyer belt.

And let’s not forget the dogs who are picking up on everyone else’s stress and acting up because they’re level of anxiety is at an all time high with the damn tree and presents they’re not allowed to pee on or tear up; all the strangers who come by, having pictures taken with some stupid little elf on their back, the UPS guy ringing the doorbell every 30 minutes and having to spend more time outside or in their crate so that they’re not tripped over.

Then to top it all off the world was piling it on as well. You carried with you the stress of a potential fiscal cliff
and stared a fading NHL season square in the eye. (You may laugh, but NHL fans were struggling with both the nhl_lockout640_640lock out and the fact that people didn’t care.)

From right wing politicians to left wing hockey players and owners fighting, foreign nations in civil conflict, school shootings leaving us all emotionally drained and then of course people arguing over gun laws. I swear, just thinking about it makes me want to check some whiney congressman (or woman) into the boards with an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.

But hey! You made it. It’s all history and somehow 2013 started off with some lights at the end of the tunnel. Despite a few bumps in the road and a few dollars missing from your paycheck, everyone made it to the other side. Family visits are over, presents are opened, lights are taken down (or at least turned off), hockey starts in two weeks and D.C. will live to fight another day.

So grab a Molson, order yourself a dozen chicken wings, put on a pair of underwear that Santa stuffed in your stocking and pat yourself on the back. As you do, look back at the past year and recognize all of your
accomplishments. Think about everything you experienced, everything you felt and everything you’ve learned.

Stop for a moment and consider how much stronger you are and how far you’ve come. You’ve answered a lot of questions and overcome a lot of issues. New ones will arise of course, but you’re better equipped to deal withPresident Obama Hosts Congressional Leaders To Discuss Fiscal Cliff them. You have a better sense of who you are and where your life is headed. This will be a year of continued growth and understanding; a year of discovering new strengths and abilities. You’ll learn a little more about who you are and what you’re capable of. Of what you’re deserving of and what you need to be happy. And come next Thanksgiving, you’ll find yourself even better equipped to navigate the stresses of another holiday season.

For now look at the new year as a fresh canvas. A chance to spread your wings just a little wider and let your breaths be just a little deeper. It’ll be tumultuous at times no doubt, but you have new tools and skills to carry you forward. Time to pick a new north star and start dreamin’.

In the words of Cakehole Presley, “Choose your spot, grab a rock and hold on.”

 

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