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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Pine-sol be Damned!

When we’re married, we each take on different roles within the relationship. Usually some are more stereotypical than others. When I was married, for example, my wife was the one who focused a lot of attention on the state of the household. If it got messy I may have noticed, but it didn’t stress me out. It did however have the potential to affect my ex’s mood. This was especially true when there were socks, shoes, pants, shorts, toys, games, underwear, empty water pouches, legos, cereal bar wrappers, candy wrappers etc. strewn
pine-sol throughout the house. (The kids were even worse). Regardless, I never fully appreciated this fact until I became a single father.

When the duty of keeping up with the house was squarely on my shoulders, I greeted it with ignorant bliss. “How hard can this be?!!!” I said. What was the big deal? Finally I’d have the chance to let our house be a home. No more nagging about picking up things, bottle caps on the counter, a stray potato chip on the floor, jackets hung on the chair; who cares! Pine-sol be damned!

Then, as life continued to take my schedule to higher, more deafening levels, I started to notice that I would become increasingly annoyed by the smallest of specs on the floor. A dog hair on the couch, Barbies in every room of the house, finding ten towels in a bedroom, or dishes under a bed. All of it really started to get under my skin. It was insanity … INSANITY I SAY!

What was happening to me? Who was I? I heard myself saying things I’d only heard my mother say. (OK … and my ex-wife). The stress of keeping up with every aspect of my life only to come home to a mess was starting to get to me and it was only a matter of time before something had to give.

That’s when I had a breakthrough. The reality is, for me anyway, that it’s not so much about the house being clean as it is about my life being in order. A recent rain day tells the story perfectly. Between softball, soccer, a full time job, freelance projects, personal time etc., a lot of things had fallen by the waist side and I felt completely buried. I felt beyond overwhelmed and for the first time in my life, I was embarrassed to allow any of my kids’ friends into the house because of the shape it was in.

Then one Saturday, a heavy rain cancelled a full day of sporting events. And so, the kids and I took advantage of the day to tackle the house. Everything else was put on the back burner. Work, sports, friends, all of it. The kids took on their rooms and helped wipe things down and clean windows. I began to purge all the extra “stuff” that had accumulated on the counters, on chairs, dressers etc. And together we reclaimed the house.

It is impossible to explain to you the difference it made having the house put together. Mind you, it wasn’t perfect, and still isn’t for that matter. But for the most part, it was much more presentable, comfortable, much
MV5BMTE5Njk5MzUyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwODY2NDM2._V1._SX450_SY518_less cluttered and frankly felt more homey. Even the kids took notice. Oddly enough it was my son who walked by the Pine-sol loaded sink proclaiming, “I LOVE that smell!

For me, the true value was what it did to my mental state. The foundation of order had been set. And suddenly all the other life stuff felt manageable for the simple reason that my home base was in order. It no longer felt like my entire world was unraveling. It honestly felt like clearing the clutter within our house, helped clear the clutter in my head if that makes any sense.

As a single parent, whether you have the kids every other weekend or if you happen to be the primary, life takes on a whole new level of craziness when it’s all on you, especially after you’ve been accustomed to sharing the load. It can at times be incredibly overwhelming. And it all starts with the place you spend the majority of your time, your home. Frankly, having at least that one element of my world in check made all the difference in the world.

So guys; take note. (And some of you already know this). But there is more to having a clean home than having a clean home. There is the sense of accomplishment and a feeling of “having it together” that comes with it. There is a sense that you’re not completely unraveling, that on some level, you’re holding it together. And yes, it brings peace of mind which translates to a greater ability to righten the rest of the ship. Keep in mind, I’m not suggesting you channel Felix Ungar rather, just acknowledging an appreciation for the power of order within, what can be, a world of chaos.

Oh, and yes, the power of Pine-sol (who I promise you is not sponsoring this blog … yet).

 

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Time Keeps on Slippin’ Slippin’ Slippin’

Steve Miller said it best. Time keeps on slippin’ slipplin’ slippin, into the future.

When you’re a single parent (or any parent for that matter), everything changes when it comes to your calendar. Not only is your plate full, but your soup bowl is overflowing, your salad bowl can no longer contain theto-do-list tomatoes, your bread dish is heaping and your glass is spilling all over the table.

It is easy to become overwhelmed with the “have to’s” let alone consider any sort of “me time” or maintaining friendships. Eventually you start to convince yourself that in attempting to make everyone happy you’re letting everyone down and the world is frowning on you 24 – 7. In addition to that, depending on how much of the time you have your kids, there is a new level of stress that enters the picture knowing that when you’re on … it’s all you.

And of course with spring comes a new season of sports activities to attend, games to cheer, practices to get to, new grass to mow, weeds to pull, flowers to plant and shrubs to trim. And let’s not forget the fact that school will be out soon which means camps to find, sitters to hire, vacations to plan … all of which means something else will have to be taken off the calendar.

Does this sound familiar?

As parents we want to ensure we don’t deprive our kids of essentials and experiences. But the reality is, at some point something’s gotta give. It’s up to each of us to set the priorities and recognize we’re not super heroes. We can’t do it all. Our first inclination is to simply extend the day getting up at 5 a.m. and going to bed FUTUREHEADS_THE_CHAOS_COVERat 2 a.m. But you can only keep that up for so long before you go mental. The reality is we have to be more realistic. It may mean missing a practice, or pushing a deadline, or letting the grass grow another half inch. It may mean working with other parents to help get kids where they need to be when you’re overbooked. It may be, God help me, saying no once in a while.

The world will continue to pull at you from all sides. How you handle it is really up to you. I wrote early on when I first started this blog, that adjusting to life as a single parent isn’t a race. There is no finish line. No matter how you pace yourself, there is always another step to take. ALWAYS. To enjoy each step and not completely burn out it’s important to recognize that simple truth. There is no finish line. Another truth is that whether you’re an introvert or extravert, we all need a chance to recharge. Be aware of when you reach that point and give yourself a chance to replenish your mental, physical and emotional capacity.

For me, I find that when I’m ‘thinking’ about everything that has to happen, I stress out. When I just start doing things I’m fine. Just knowing I’m tackling it, or at least attempting to tackle it, regardless of what “it” is, makes me feel better about things. It’s the first step that kills me. In the Futureheads song “Jupiter,” they state:

The first five thousand miles are the hardest steps to take
Then your autopilot kicks in for the journey’s sake
You’re impossible to break
Impossible to overtake

And it’s true. Once you get going, once you start moving, you start conquering. Eventually you get to a point where you’re system just rolls and you discover you’re capable of things you never imagined. The danger comes when you stop (like I did this weekend). Getting going again can be tough. But the point is, you forget how much you have to do when you start moving. You get focused and your mind can’t dwell on the mountainimages-23 before you.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

So, sit down, and consider what needs to be done. Make a list (WHAT DID HE SAY?). Yes a list. Then prioritize. Then roll. Get moving. Start checking things off. Maybe start with a small thing. But make sure you have your priorities straight. There will be days when you’re in a client meeting and the school is going to call to let you know your kid just threw up and needs to come home. That’s your cue to say, “you’ll have to excuse me, my kid needs me.” A day will come when they won’t need you any more and you’ll wish they did. So take advantage of these days while you can. Nine out of ten times people will understand. And if the people who are around you DON’T understand, then you need different people around you. But that’s another post.

You will get overwhelmed. Your plate will overflow. It’s part of the gig. But tomorrow will come. Trust it. Do what you can. Just don’t sit and stew over it all. Have your priorities in order. Put your body in gear and start moving forward. Little by little you’ll figure it out so long as you allow yourself to be aware of every moment and soak in the good stuff. The first 5000 miles may be the hardest ones to take, but they can also be the most rewarding.

 

 

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Power of the Good

After reading Patton Oswalt’s blog post: I was compelled to not only thank him for his words, but to consider how to handle these events as a parent and make a similar pledge. Reflecting on the events in Boston, I will not allow an individual or a handful of individuals to bruise my belief in humanity.  I prefer to focus my attention on the thousands and tens of thousands of individuals who, without blinking an eye, dove to help their fellow citizens. I believe those people still
Imageoverwhelmingly represent the majority of people on this planet and refuse to let the small minority cause me to believe otherwise. Hats off to anyone who helped someone or consoled someone today. You far out number those that caused the grief.

This is also a chance for us as single fathers (and mothers), to help our children focus on the positive aspect of humanity. The dark side will no doubt burden them with fear and anxiety as it does many adults. But to provide kids the power to shift that focus to the countless individuals who acted selfishly and without cause to rush to the aid of others, to me that’s empowerment.

Throughout their lives they will encounter mean people who wish them and those around them harm. They will be made aware of horrific events around the world and be given every opportunity and every reason to lose
Imagefaith in humanity. I know my own initial reaction was, “what is happening to the world?” But then I was reminded of the 72′ Olympics, JFK’s assassination and other similar events. They will continue to occur and we will be challenged to remind ourselves that those few do not speak for the rest of the planet. And we owe it to our children to remind them of the same thing.

Tonight when you sit down with your children and they ask questions about “mean people,” remind them of how many amazingly loving people there are in the world and of all the great things that happen in their neighborhood and in the world every day. They need to be reminded of that and deserve a peaceful night’s sleep. And you’re just the person to get them there.

Peace.

 

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Tone Deaf

It is probably stated in every parenting magazine, blog, book, thesis, study and hallmark card. It’s up to parents to set the tone and whatever tone you set, your kids will follow your lead. And yet, how often do we as parents set the wrong tone? We let work, laundry, family disputes, traffic, finances, lack of sleep, all of it, provide the basis of the tone we set within our very own home. Weimg_4204 establish an environment of stress and anxiety and then wonder why our kids are stressed out or why they react negatively toward each other.

What’s that? Oh … it’s just me?

Ah yes. I forgot; we also then get down on ourselves because  everyone else’s home is all Ward and June Cleaver.

I’m still convinced it comes down to awareness. Recognizing that something’s getting under your skin that has allowed you to set the tone at 11 and that adjustments need to be made. Acknowledging that you may be partly responsible for your child’s anxiety is a tough one to soak in. But listen; better to recognize it and fix it than let it grow and fester. I’m telling you it’s amazing to watch your kids respond to a dad who makes a point of staying calm and helping them through a difficult day. That moment when you recognize that your daughter isn’t really freaking out because you’re out of cherry popsicles is epic. And nothing is more rewarding than when she confides in you five minutes after stopping to “listen” that it was actually something someone said to her during recess. Oh but getting angry is SO much easier isn’t it?

We all know what it’s like to start the day off rushing to get the kids to the bus, with one of them freaking out because their homework isn’t finished or they can’t find their other shoe or they hate the clothes they have on and decide as you’re walking out the door to change. We’ve all experienced the stress, the tension and the
OldManualToneSettingsshear exhaustion of pulling everyone together to make it on time. And we’ve all pulled out of the school parking lot mad at ourselves for not doing a better job of holding it together.

Let it pass. Acknowledge there will be days like that and move on. At that very moment, stop and consider what you want tomorrow to be like and create a “preset” in your head. It’s hard as hell. But just try to remember, your kids need you, not only to set the tone, but to protect their little egos. To support their little minds. And to teach them how to handle stress and anxiety. You’re their rock. Protect them. Teach them. Again, no one said it’s easy. But as long as you’re aware and can catch yourself; that’s half the battle.

I’m not saying the tone should always be the same. Honestly; for someone who’s lived their entire life wearing their heart on their sleeve, that’s not realistic. However, there are appropriate tones for different emotions. Settings that can teach your kids (and you) the proper way to express disappointment, anger, frustration, joy, happiness, love and peace. As long as respect is the root of any tone; you should be good to go.

So go practice. Yeah – that’s right; practice. Create some presets in your head. Visualize the morning, dinner at the restaurant, shopping. Whatever the situation you’re preparing for, establish an expectation for how you’re going to handle the worse case scenario. What tone will you set? How will you deal with it? Think ahead. Prepare yourself and visualize the end result. Just promise yourself you’re going to do what you can to prevent yourself from becoming tone deaf.

 

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Not Everyone Gets A Trophy

The question comes up from time to time within my family about the value of sports when it comes to kids. I have four older sisters, three of which are or were teachers at one time. The argument of teaching kids about competition and how to lose are sometimes at the forefront. Personally, I think it’s a sin that every kid gets a trophy regardless of whether they win or not. Life isn’t like that. Not everyone gets the gig or a raise. The argument about building self esteem just doesn’t wash for me. I think you can build more esteem by teaching a kid to bounce back from defeat and overcome that feeling of being let down. How you react to failure and
seq_2_big
adversity is a skill that needs to be taught at an early age (if you ask me anyway). That’s not to say we shouldn’t be pumping our kids up and reminding them about how great they are, but I think we forget that losing isn’t the end. It’s just part of the journey.

I personally believe that there are countless opportunities to teach our kids life lessons through sports. And if you’re not careful, sometimes you can learn a lesson or two yourself in the process.

Case in point: I was coaching my son’s soccer game over the weekend and had a bit of a revelation. He had struggled in the first half and was playing somewhat passively. His tentative approach had him out of position a great deal of the time and he was growing frustrated that he wasn’t getting the ball very often. I kept encouraging him during the third quarter to go after the ball more when the opposing team had control and to take the ball from them. Basically, telling him that if he wanted the ball, he’d have to fight for it. I reminded him that the other team wasn’t just going to hand it to him and his teammates weren’t going to pass it to him if he wasn’t open.

We talked about awareness and opening his eyes to the big picture and recognizing where he needed to be in order to be the most effective. What did he need to do to help be a more productive and valuable member of the team at any given moment? I told him, get your head up and eyes wide.

Early on in the fourth quarter, the action happened to be taking place directly in front of me. The other team was moving up field and my son was standing in front of the guy who had control of the ball. My son was just kind of standing there looking like he wasn’t sure what to do. I was close enough to yell to him and encouraged him to go for it and take the ball from the other guy. And sure enough, he pressured the imagesguy and got a foot on the ball and broke it free. He then proceeded to dribble toward the opposing goal and made a beautiful pass that set up a shot. From that point on he started getting right in the thick of things and started playing with more ferver. His energy and confidence grew each time he managed to gain control of the ball and eventually he even scored a goal.

A few of his teammates had taken notice as well and began to emulate his actions. Suddenly the entire team began to play with more intensity and were controlling the ball better. And don’t tell me winning doesn’t matter to a seven year old. They had no problem reminding themselves and anyone who’d listen who won and what the score was which quickly turned into a lesson on good sportsmanship and being a gracious victor.

As we got in the car, I started thinking about work and a couple of personal goals I hadn’t met. And then it hit me. I’d been living life the past few months like my son was playing soccer in the first half. Waiting for things to come to me and wondering why no one was passing me the ball. Yet I hadn’t really done much to put myself in a position to get the ball. I’d just kind of been standing there waiting for something to happen. And sadly, that’s not how it works. I looked at my son and the other kids on the field and eventually entered this week determined to step up my game and make a stronger effort to put myself in position to score.

From social skills to approaching adversity and challenges, I do believe sports are a valuable tool. But like any tool, it’s important to understand how to use it and the dangers of using it incorrectly. It’s also about balance and understanding when it’s time to back off and not take it too seriously. For us the first rule is to have fun and get exercise. But honestly, appreciating the value of both success and failure are vital aspects of growing up. It’s the cornerstone of what athletics are based upon; winning and losing. And like it or not, a big part of living a life of contentment is learning how to deal with both success and failure. So many life lessons can be taught through athletics and if you’re paying close enough attention, you can likely learn a little something yourself along the way.

 

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