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Category Archives: Encouragement

Get With The Program(mer)

It is never lost on me, that each of my children are hardwired very differently. Each has their own way of approaching things and each their own interests. Sometimes these overlap, but more often than not, each has a unique set of triggers in just about every aspect of their personality.

If one of our jobs as parents is to help our kids find their passion and create a series of goals to motivate them, the first task is to recognize what it is that gets their motor running. Notice I said, “their” motor, not yours. That’s the hard part, as more often than not, what’s enticing and interesting to your kids is completely foreign to you as a dad (or mom). Or we attempt to push our own interests on them,Screenshot 2014-09-17 10.57.43 primarily because it’s easier and admittedly, who wouldn’t want their kid to show an interest in what they do. But in my house, unless you’re Beyonce’, Peyton Manning or Tom Ford, you’ll typically get a “ho hum.”

Currently, I have a fashion designer, a singer and apparently a video game developer living under my roof. It would be easy to roll your eyes and say, “sure honey, you can be a singer.” But truthfully both my fashion diva and songstress have proven to maintain a strong interest for an extended period of time in both interests. Enough so that both their mom and I are looking at ways to support the interests while giving them a well rounded understanding of both the creative and business side of their pursuits. Which leads us to the last one on the list; the video game developer.  We’ve been waiting for him to find a “calling” of sorts and it’s a somewhat new discovery that basically came about by having to answer the simple question, “Dad, how do you make a video game?”

Now, ask me how to make a music video or a bologna sandwich and I’m your guy. How to make a video game? No idea. My initial reaction was “Well, you study hard in school and go to college to learn how.” Seemed reasonable enough. The answer went over like a Flappy Bird hitting a giant lead pole as my son proclaimed, “But I want to make it NOW!” I then mentioned something about having to learn how to write “code” and escaped to the kitchen to make dinner.

My son returned about fifteen minutes later with an entire page of code he’d written in his own computer language. Obviously, this idea wasn’t going to go away any time soon.

So after I put the kids to bed I started searching on line and low and behold, there are a TON of ways for kids to learn computer programming and development. What appears to be at the top of the list is code.org, a site that features Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates along with a plethora of other computer scientists, programmers and developers all eager to help us all (not just the kids) understand computer programming. There is even a lesson on how to build your own version of Flappy Bird. This morning I showed it to my son and he went bananas. And when he’s not on the site, I’ll be the first to admit, I’m on it learning a thing or two myself.

What really gets your kid’s mojo working? Do you know? What have you done to encourage it or maybe discourage it? Would love to hear your experiences in the comments section below.

 

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Why Every Man Should Have a Daughter

I was raised by a remarkable woman. In addition, I grew up with four equally brilliant older sisters. And yet. Despite that fact, I knew very little about women when I entered my marriage. I was a blithering idiot when it came to understanding the female of our species and made remarkable errors in1656173_10152167021502908_421350704_n judgement because of that fact. They are likely errors most men make when attempting to understand and react to a woman’s thoughts, actions or needs. Yet they were still made by a man who clearly had no clue when it came to fully appreciating what it meant to live with a woman despite having grown up with several of them.

Enter my daughters.

As I’ve witnessed my girls grow and mature I have gained remarkable insights that I otherwise probably would have never known. To see first hand the development of the female mind is something great documentaries and scientific studies are made of. I often watch in awe and bewilderment as they navigate through relationships, friendships, insecurities, school struggles, body development, understanding the world and finding their purpose.

One thing I did learn from my ex-wife, (or attempted to learn anyway), was to sometimes just shut up and listen. It is a skill I often use while having a late night tea with my daughters. It is during these moments that I sit there on the verge of breaking out into desperate cold sweats of anxiety as they divulge their view on the world around them. There are times I’m tempted to open my mouth, but find the strength to just sit and take it all in; blown away at the perspective I’m being offered and the information I’m being trusted with.

Through this process I have begun to view women very differently. Perhaps it’s because I know that I myself am still very much defined by the kid I was many moons ago. So I believe it’s fair to assume that most people, women included, continue to react to the world in the same way they did as children; all of this despite 1185934_10151773292737908_2109251665_nour experiences, knowledge and education. We have, in most cases, matured and learned how to handle things more “adult like.” However, the root of who we are continues to be and always will be based on the foundation we laid as children.

To witness first hand the building of that foundation and to see how the mind of a young child, in particular that of a young woman, processes information is without question the most life changing experience a man can have. It is, in my humble opinion, a blessing to be given this opportunity to take it all in. And I urge any man who has a daughter to pay very close attention. I also encourage you to stop, just when you’re about to open your mouth in judgement and distain, to just shut up and listen. Observe, watch and learn. You will be scared. You will be terrified by some of what you see and hear. You may very well be rocked to your very soul. You may be tempted to run or perhaps yell, “STOP! You can’t be serious!!!” But fight these urges and just listen. I mean, REALLY listen. For there are insights hidden within the murky waters that is their language. Unfortunately there is no “Rosetta Stone – Women” to teach you this language. So if your daughter is willing to open up to you … remember it is a gift. One to be treated as such. And I promise you, you will be a better man for it.

I still do not profess to understand women. Neh; quite the contrary. I make mistakes and continue to hear things wrong, react wrong and mis-read. But that’s the point. We’re not supposed to necessarily understand. Rather, if I’ve learned anything these past several years watching my children grow, it’s that our purpose is not to understand, but rather simply accept and support. For we will not change them. We will not turn them into what we want. We can only be there to help them become the best “them” they can be.

 

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P&G’s Epic Olympic Fail

I’d like to start by saying how much respect I have for moms and everything they (you) do for our children. That includes my ex-wife who is an amazing mom and is incredibly supportive of our kids. I’d also like to begin by stating that this is not a bitter retort on P&G’s Olympic ad campaign rather an attempt to point out how short sighted the company’s view may have been when they first conceived this brand initiative.

First I’d simply like to remind Proctor & Gamble that dads buy your products too. We’re also very much involved in encouraging our kids’ interests and dreams; sacrificing our time, money and sometimes even our careers to ensure we’re there for them every step of the way. We typically work in tandem with mom to ensure every practice is metproctor-and-gamble and every game watched. Whether we’re married, single, divorced, gay or straight, we are equally involved in helping our children pursue their dreams. This is not about who does more, it’s about everyone sharing the responsibility, the sacrifices and those precious moments of victory. Bottom line; there was a chance here to present to the world how much America still believes in working together as a family and you completely missed it.

I was under the impression that as a society, dads were becoming more and more recognized for how involved they are in their kids’ lives. How many soccer practices, dance rehearsals, volleyball matches, drama club meetings and countless other weekly if not daily events they get their kids to. The endless lunches, dinners, snacks, loads of laundry, doctors visits and bedtime stories they’re responsible for. How many times they volunteer to coach, mentor and encourage not only their own kids but their neighbor’s kids as well. Again, not taking away from what moms do, I simply can’t fathom why P&G felt it a good idea to single out one side of such an important equation rather than take this opportunity to encourage more dads to be a part of their kids lives as I believe kids need both their mom AND dad involved.

I’m going to bet that a good majority of moms rely on their spouses or ex’s to be a part of the team. An important word that seems to have been ignored by P&G for a sporting event by the way; team. Show me a dad who hasn’t cried procter_gamble_prodthe first time he saw his daughter complete a routine during a skating competition. Point me to a father who hasn’t had an out of body experience after watching his son or daughter score their first goal. By ignoring this half of the population and parental team (there’s that word again) P&G is not only ignoring an enormous piece of their profit pie, but they’re subtly insinuating that dad was too uninterested to take time to watch his kid’s practice.

As someone who has personally thrown thousands of pitches to my daughter, hit endless pop flies, tossed a million footballs, gotten up at 6 am to run 2 miles with my 8-year-old, and sat with all the other moms and dads for hours on a Saturday during dance rehearsals I can tell you my contributions are only a fraction of what many dads do. I have friends who drive hundreds of miles to their daughter’s gymnastics competitions and still others who coach travel baseball and softball teams which requires a commitment of 6-7 days a week for months on end. And when mom is the one driving the kids to practice, there’s a good chance it’s dad who’s at home doing the laundry and putting the dishes away.

P&G would no doubt respond by saying, “we aren’t discounting the efforts of dads.” And I’m sure that wasn’t by any means their intent. The problem with the campaign is the lack of understanding it shows for the struggles many fathers go through when fighting to even see their kids every other weekend. Or the perception of the role of fathers when they face a judge during a custody battle. Or how important it is that we take every opportunity to encourage those dads who may NOT be involved to care and take an interest in their children. To you it’s a celebration of mom, to me it’s a two generation step backward in our society’s growth in understanding the importance of a father in a child’s life. Proctor & Gamble, you had an amazing opportunity to celebrate the importance of family and everyone who is involved in advancing the dreams of our children not to mention how important it is to be not just a family, but a team regardless of how you define family. Why you chose the direction of your campaign I honestly don’t know, but I will tell you I’m personally deducting major points and will strongly consider leaving your product on the podium during my next trip to the grocery store, a trip I typically take with three kids in tow btw.

 

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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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Join The Club

Why would you read this blog? Well. If you’re a divorced dad (or mom for that matter), you’re kind of part of the club. When you got divorced, your friends and family likely rallied behind you and supported you in the only way they knew how. But as much as we appreciate the support of those around us, there is still an emptiness you feel unless you’re able to connect with others who are living the same experience.

I can demonstrate empathy for someone with a broken arm, but I can’t connect with them on a level of true understanding and compassion simply because I’ve never had to live day to day with the emotional or physicalpolls_alone_0603_585011_poll_xlarge challenges of having to survive with only one workable set of fingers.

Those who don’t have kids, can’t fully appreciate what a day with kids is like. Anyone who isn’t divorced with kids, can’t truly appreciate the level of energy true commitment to those lives requires to make it work. They can support, love, embrace, and encourage. But they will never truly understand what life as a single divorced dad is like unless you are a single divorced dad as well. At times it can cause you to feel alone in a crowded room. You need the support and appreciate the encouragement, but you can still feel alone when you don’t feel like people fully understand what you’re going through.

And so, this blog was created as a point of reference, written by a single divorced father of three who is attempting, like other single divorced dads, to make it through the hours, days, weeks, months, and years with a positive attitude and with the strength to raise well adjusted happy children.

It’s one thing for a doctor of psychology to tell you it’ll all be OK. Or to hear from your married brother that you’re going to make it. But it’s another when a fellow father struggling with getting the kids to soccer practice, their yearbook meeting, dance class, making their lunches, being there when they get home, having their favorite keep-calm-and-join-the-club-6jeans ready in the morning, making sure everyone is together for a healthy dinner, and coordinating with an ex who has their own set of demands to deal with, tells you that you can do it; it simply holds a little more weight.

And I’m here to tell you, you can do it. You’re going to make it. You’re not alone. There are others going through exactly the same thing. It sucks, it’s hard, it’s demanding and it’s draining. It will test you on every level emotionally and physically. You will fail, and you will succeed. You will laugh. You will cry. You will smile. You will scream. You will let people down because you’re simply at capacity and don’t have anything else to give. You will also celebrate victories with friends and family when you need it most. You will have days when you’ll feel like it’s all going to fall apart. But you will recover and recognize that it won’t. There will be victories. There will be hugs. You will find moments of peace and acceptance. You will recognize strengths you never would have known you had if it hadn’t been for the divorce. You will grow and so will your children. There are so many positives to look for. So many amazing moments. And so many things you can do to make it a positive.

My hope is that you can find a word or two here and there that encourages you to smile and get up ready to take on the world. A world that may be foreign to you. One that may appear overwhelming at times, but is manageable if you simply take it one step at a time.

So, from one divorced father to another; I assure you, you can make it. Oh, and welcome to the club. Glad to have you.

 

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