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Category Archives: family time

I’ll Take The Mess

Well, it’s Sunday night and the house is a mess. There are clothes lying on the floor. Empty bags of snacks on the coffee table. Shoes and socks strewn about. A few dishes that never made it into the dishwasher. Floors need mopping. There’s laundry in the dryer to fold and still more ready to go into the washer. Odds and ends desperately need to find a home. Basically, to say our house looks lived in is an understatement. But I don’t care.

I will gladly take the messy house in exchange for a full two days of spending time together as a family. To spend an entire day playing softball together on the first truly nice Saturday of the new year. Seeing all three 2014-02-22 14.49.20kids playing together without pulling each others hair out (well, for the most part). Hanging out together in the house. Having meals together. Arguing together. Working it out together. Spending hours with one on a school project. Having a special dinner with another while the other two spent time celebrating a friend’s birthday. Shooting hoops and playing catch with the third. Weekends like that are too few and far between.

They don’t come easily either. As the girls get older they’d much rather spend the night at a friend’s or go skating with the gang. It took several no’s and turning down other offers to get us all in the same house at the same time for more than an afternoon. No softball practice. No soccer games. No sleepovers. But it was worth it. We had our moments of frustration and we had our share of stress points throughout the weekend. But we worked it out. And when it was all said and done I gathered the troops to thank them all for a terrific weekend together. I wanted them to recognize how special these days are and how important it is that from time to time we shut out the world and focus on each other to remind ourselves that we are a team.

For me personally, to have a weekend without too many projects or deadlines was too good to pass up. Those days are rare as well, especially after a busy week. There were several moments when an hour on the couch 2014-02-17 09.31.25sounded like heaven. But a moment throwing a baseball with my son or making breakfast with another sounded even better. We all had to push ourselves at times and I was proud to see all three of the kids make the effort. Maybe they all recognized they needed it more than any of us realized. It encouraged me to keep putting the mouse down to get back outside to shoot one more basket.

I love my kids. I really do. They push me to new limits on a daily basis. There are times when I throw my arms up in complete disbelief at how horrible a job I’ve done parenting these little demons. And then somehow it all comes together. Just when I’m convinced I completely suck as a parent, the kids remind me of what it means to be a family and how important we are to each other. Smiles and hugs goodnight and three kids laughing together tells us all it was well worth every effort and that sometimes a mess isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

 

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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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Learning To Say Goodbye

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My brother-in-law Paul and me.

For the past several years I’ve worked hard to ensure that my children know my family. My sisters and parents all live 700 plus miles away, which has made it a challenge at times. So, we make the trip up north at least once and typically two or three times a year to play and visit. At one point my ex-wife and I even moved everyone up to Buffalo for six months to make sure a connection would be made. All told, the benefits have been enormous. The relationships my children have with their aunts and uncles are something they will carry with them the rest of their lives and their memories with them are too numerous to mention.

Today I find myself helping guide them through the first negative that comes with having a strong relationship with a relative; having to saying goodbye. The passing of my brother-in-law Paul has been nothing short of a strong blow to the gut and we are all feeling the impact. This is the first loss we’ve had within our immediate little circle and my sisters, parents and I are all in a state of shock. And as usual, my kids are watching. They’re watching me talk on the phone with my family. They’re watching me break down in front of the dairy section at Kroger. They’re watching me stare off into space as I try to make sense of it all. And they’re watching me do laundry and clean the kitchen as I deal with the day to day operations of our lives which simply don’t stop.

The children lost an uncle and I a big brother. He was the husband of my eldest sister and he influenced me in more ways than I care to mention. He was a teacher, a photographer, a carpenter and a business owner. He probably taught me as much about life as my own father did as he was a part of my world from the age of
three. He encouraged my sense of humor, taught me to play pool, helped me build my first bookshelf and helped me chop down my first Christmas tree. My kids of course are full of questions. And they have all requested to make the trip north with me to say goodbye and be there with the rest of my family.

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Paul playing Uno with the kids

And so, we will make this trip together. As much as I want to protect them from pain, there are life lessons that can’t be avoided no matter how much we try. This week they will no doubt cry and feel a pain that until now has
been foreign to them. They will see others, including their father, struggle to make sense of their uncle’s passing. But at some point in their life they will have to say goodbye to someone and if there is any comfort to be found in all of this, it is that they will do so within a supportive circle. A circle they’ve spent the past several years becoming a more integral part of with every visit. They will need hugs and need to hug. But along with their pain, they will know the value of being a part of a family they are now completely vested in.

As a man who has made an art out of keeping people at arm’s length (including my family at times); teaching my children to open themselves up to hurt by opening themselves up to love has proven to be a daunting task. But just knowing how much they have learned from knowing Paul and the rest of my family, knowing how much laughter and joy they have experienced from being around them throughout these past several years; I myself have reflected on how much can be gained from making ourselves vulnerable. Paul taught us all a great deal. And as one friend put it, even in passing, he’s managed to find a way to teach one final valuable lesson. How to say goodbye.

 

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Get It Right The Third Time!

Would you expect your nine-year-old to start playing a Chopin concerto perfectly on the piano the first time? How many hours of practicing would you expect him/her to need in order to get it right? And yet how often do we get upset with our kids when they don’t act correctly or follow directions the first time?

My recent push to have the kids do the dishes together after dinner made me stop and recognize how important it is to provide them with opportunities to practice not just what they do but how they do it and whoIT-simple-mistakes they do it with. Our first go around was rough. (Boy … was it rough). Each kid wanted to lead. Or should I say, didn’t want the others to lead. Perhaps their goal was for me to give up on the entire idea and just say, “fine, you guys go play and I’ll clean up.” But by the ninth or tenth time they started to get into a rhythm. They started to figure out that either way it was going to happen, so they may as well make it fun. And they did. They each made mistakes (I have a picture of a very soapy floor to prove it). But learned to help each other work through the mistakes rather than point fingers.

How many soccer games did your child play before they started to figure out how to pass rather than go after the ball with everyone else on the field?

I’m grooming my oldest for baby sitting the other two; giving her opportunities to watch them for five, ten, fifteen minutes at a time. The first few times it’s resulted in a revolt due to a lack of communication and lack of understanding of how everyone needs to work together. But what a tremendous learning experience for every single one of them, including me. After each instance we sit down and discuss what worked and what didn’t. Hopefully over time, they’ll each learn the best way to respond to each other to ensure an enjoyable experience.

Even something as simple as the morning routine, i.e. getting ready for school, getting dressed, fed, out the door on time; has taken a long time to nail down. Oh sure, you can try to get things together the night before. mistakesBut kids change their minds or forget socks. Or neglect to inform you of a form that needs to be filled out, waiting until you’re closing the door. Learning how to work together and pace yourself properly and work through the stress of the morning rush takes practice.

But how many times do we throw up our arms and give up when it doesn’t work the first time? “I knew this would happen!” “I knew this was a mistake!” “What were you thinking?!” “Why did I think I could trust you?!” “Obviously you’re not ready for this kind of thing!” So easy to just spew the negative and make our kids feel like incompetent idiots isn’t it?

I, like you, struggle with providing them emotional room to grow and learn. To build their confidence through the fine art of screwing up. How difficult it is to encourage our kids to make mistakes and teach them that being wrong is OK and simply part of the process. Especially when it directly affects our own routine or deadlines. But keep in mind that even Einstein knew the power of making mistakes. I believe he’s quoted as saying, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Yes it typically means a lot of cleaning up, or buying a “new one.” But I believe there is a cost to progress, both financially and emotionally. I always tell my kids, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” I mean that in terms of both a project and the day itself. If we can lay our head on the pillow high-fiving each other, regardless of any arguments or lapses in judgement that took place, then it was a good day. If we can rest knowing we learned something from our mistakes and that we’re better prepared for the next time, then it was indeed a success.

Bottom line; the goal shouldn’t be to get it right the first time. The goal should be to learn how to do it differently until you get it right.

 

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Time Out Already!

If you’re like a lot of divorced dads, you work triple time to maintain your world. Especially if your kids are a regular part of it and you’re now the soul bread winner in what used to be a two income household. It can be a
lot to keep up with and the pace can wear down even the most determined individual.timeout

In the midst of what can become complete and udder chaos when you’re learning to juggle life as a single parent; every once in a while I think it’s important to just blow everything off and spend a day (or two) focused 130% on your kid(s).

While they understand that your life is crazy busy, they still need to feel like they’re one of, if not THE most important thing in your life. The last thing they need is to feel “in the way” or “just another thing you have to deal with.” And that happens quite quickly if you’re not careful, especially when you’re short with them while trying to meet a deadline or two.

The other powerful aspect of taking time to recharge is that it reminds you yourself of what’s really important. It’s so easy to get caught up in the minutia of a job or particular concern you have that sometimes you just need to take a step back to regain a proper perspective. When you’re focused too intently on one aspect of your life it can easily appear much larger than it actually is. Taking a step back reminds you that, in most cases it’s just one small part of the big picture.
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You will find a sudden sense of liberation from releasing yourself of the responsibilities you’ve pushed yourself to maintain for so long. That one moment of recognizing you’re not late and won’t have to worry about traffic, deadlines, meetings etc. is like releasing the steam from a pressure cooker that’s about to explode.

Giving yourself a time out every once in a while, especially when you’re feeling an excessive amount of stress and anxiety, reminds you that the world won’t end if you’re not in the game for a play or two. If need be, delegate. Let someone else field the call. It’s also an opportunity to reassure the kids that when push comes to shove, your relationship with them is really all that matters. And by the way, NEVER feel guilty for making your kid the priority once in a while.

And even when you’re not taking that day off to be with them, remind them as often as you can how much you love it when they’re with you. Even if they blow it off, believe me they hear it and it means more than you’ll ever know.

 

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