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Category Archives: Support

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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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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The Society That Cried Bully

Were you bullied as a kid? Before you answer, stop and really think about it and then consider how your kids will answer the same question thirty years from now.

The word is being thrown around a lot lately and in the process its definition is becoming diluted, which personally I think is an insult to those kids who are truly being tortured to the point of suicide. It’s also a danger to our own kids who are being taught to label those around them as bullies when in fact they may be nothing
more than an ignorant kid who simply called your child a poopy head.

I myself was teased as a youngster. I was the short kid in school. At one point I strongly considered legally changing my name to Half-Pint. Kidding aside, it had a profound affect on me. It wasn’t just kids calling me names and labeling me, it was teachers, parents, coaches, friends, family, you name it. They all had their
shutterstock_87771445“affectionate” little names for me and were always quick to point out that I was too little to do things. My self image throughout life was that of being small and scrawny. Even after I’d become an adult and, for the most part, caught up, I still considered myself puny.

Would I consider it bullying? No. Teasing maybe, but not bullying. Did it hurt? Yes. Did I react to it? Certainly. I remember one day getting so angry I actually found myself shoving the tallest kid in the class into the chalkboard and punching him. But that was pretty much the extent of it. It led to a trip to the principle’s office for both of us and a lesson on choosing how we react to people.

Then I discovered Ernie DiGregorio, a point guard for the Buffalo Braves of the NBA. Listed as 6′ 0″, he was closer to 5′ 10″ and seemed dwarfed by the other players on the court. Yet he held his own. He had poise and exuded inner strength. I thought he was the coolest guy on the planet and he was my idol. To a kid like me, he represented that the size of my body didn’t matter as much as the size of my heart. He gave me a positive to grab hold on to and carry with me.

I still hated being short and looking back can see how the names, always being at the head of the line in school, the names, having short sisters who were bigger than me, the names, and frankly just being short, all had a profound affect on my self image; both as a child and as an adult. Still I wouldn’t consider it bullying.
Would it have helped if people would have been a little more sensitive? Sure, but the question is at what point does teasing become bullying or something more criminal? And do we at times put too much of the responsibility on the teaser, and not enough on the teased?

WHAT? Blame the teased? No, I’m not suggesting we blame the teased. But I do believe we are on a path of making everyone out to be a victim, which is dangerous. Yes, it is without question important to teach our children (and adults for that matter) to be sensitive to those around us. To be compassionate, supportive and understanding. To lift each other up rather than knock them down. But we also need to be giving our kids the tools to deal with jerks. To recognize that they exist and how to look past them and keep moving forward. To learn the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who appreciate us and ignore the noise emitted by those who would put us down in an effort to build themselves up. To understand why people are mean and learn how to blow it off.

The reality is, no matter what we do as a society, there are going to be assholes. Hell, as a dear friend and mentor once taught me, on any given day we have the potential to be that asshole. There are going to be jealous, insecure idiots who will do whatever they can to push down the strong willed and those different than images-6them. When they attack we need to know how to handle it and brush it off. To recognize that typically these people need bigger hugs than we do and buying into their ignorance is giving them too much credit.

That takes practice and it takes a support system teaching us that the actions of the mean are irrelavent and nothing more than a cry for help from someone much weaker than ourselves. They are actually a sign that the potential strength they see in us is a threat, one they don’t know how to deal with so they choose to spew hatred. I honestly believe bullying has more to do with fear than it does hatred. We fear those who pose a threat and tend to become defensive. Some take it to extremes with relentless taunts, facebook posts, threats, verbal torture and worse.

My point to this post is simple. I’m concerned that too much focus is on teaching kids not to bully and not enough on giving kids the tools to deal with being bullied. As much as we need to let kids know how important it is to accept each other and respect each other for our differences, we also need to teach our kids the value of having a tough skin. To learn to deal with adversity and defeat. To pick themselves back up when they fail or someone hurts them. This doesn’t mean giving everyone a trophy to build up their self esteem. Quite the contrary. It means recognizing those teaching opportunities. The strikeout, the D-, not making the team, being called fat or skinny; singled out because of race or sexual orientation or for wearing the wrong shirt to school. These are all precursors to the struggles that await them as adults. Their childhood is a pre-season of sorts. And it’s our job to coach them through it to prepare for the big game. From pre-school to middle school to high school, each instance is a chance to learn how to deal with struggles and find the inner strength to over come them. (Please don’t wait until high school to start.)

YES! We need to help kids understand the impact of their teasing, and bullying. But there are always going to be those who bully because they already KNOW the affects of their actions. It’s why they do it! They want to inflict pain. They want to knock you down. That’s their goal. The more you point out to them that their actions hurt, the more you’re going to encourage them because they WANT to hurt.

My hope is that we as a society not only teach our youth the power of their words and actions, but that we also strive to raise a generation of emotionally strong, self confident young people who recognize that people who hate are afraid. Afraid of your strength. That sometimes the only way they know how to build themselves up is to take you down a notch. We need to raise a generation of kids who know how amazing they are to the point that even the harshest attacks will leave nothing more than a scratch. When I shoved the kid into the chalk board, we were BOTH sent to the principle’s office. I was told that while the other kid’s actions were unacceptable, how I responded to them was as bad if 314239679x356not worse. That violence isn’t the answer. When I got back to the classroom my teacher told me the same thing and told me that I was “bigger” than that. And she was right.

Your kids are going to be told throughout their lives that they aren’t good enough, that their thoughts are wrong and will feel at times like they don’t belong. They’re not going to gel with everyone they meet. We need to teach them that just because someone thinks they can’t sing doesn’t mean they should stop singing. In fact, we should teach them to sing louder so that more people hear them. Because I promise you, there is someone out there who will think they sing like an angel. Teach them to just walk past the ones who don’t and keep looking for those that do.

So what can we do? For starters let kids know they’re not alone. Show them that they have someone else they can talk to who may be going through the same thing. The Our Place Network is a great example. Young kids talking to young kids, monitored by an adult. There’s even a weekly podcast that goes along with it where kids can call in with questions or stories and get input from other kids their age as well as non-judging adults.

Yes, teach your kids to be sensitive. Yes, coach them to be supportive when someone stumbles. But at the same time educate them to know how to pick themselves back up when they themselves stumble and there isn’t anyone around to help them. Because it will happen. They will be picked on, they will be teased, they may even be bullied and feel like the world is against them. Give them the tools and the inner strength to battle through those moments, brush themselves off and be there to help the next guy.

 

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Bad Taste In Your Mouth

We all talk a lot about being around people who “get” you. And what a drag it can be when you’re around people who don’t “get” you. Even when talking about your divorce, you’re more than likely to say at some point, “we just didn’t get each other.” I did that. I put the onus on the fact that we just didn’t “get” each other. But then I Unknownstarted to look at the bigger picture and recognized that there were a lot of people in my life who just didn’t “get” me. And so I turned to the mirror.

The truth is that we likely have traits that create the same outcome in many aspects of our lives and a broken marriage is a great opportunity to take a closer look at ourselves. The problem is, life and societal interaction is a bit more complex than that. To believe that we alone are the soul contributor to the outcome of any relationship is ignoring the fact that, for lack of a better term, “it takes two to tango.” Perhaps the reason for our discontent isn’t always in how we interact with the world, but more, what world we choose to interact WITH.

Consider for a second that the world is your local grocery store and personalities are ingredients to a recipe. Pick any two ingredients and you’re going to get a different outcome. Some will compliment each other very well; such as peanut butter and jelly. While others, like the same peanut butter with pickles, will for most anyway, leave you with a bad taste in their mouth. So it stands to reason that if peanut butter only hangs out with different pickles I would imagine he’d start to think he didn’t taste very good. But what if peanut butter started hanging out with jellies more often?

Perhaps for some reason we keep hanging out in the wrong aisle, constantly trying to team up with the wrong ingredients. In turn we constantly find ourselves trying to blend with other personalities that clash with, more than compliment our own flavor. We’re then left with the feeling that no one likes peanut butter, I mean, us. Let’s face it, pickles just don’t “get” peanut butter. But jelly sure as hell does.

As I enter my third year of divorce and forty-seventh on this earth, I’ve come to realize that as much as we 24PEANUT-articleLargeneed to take a good hard look at ourselves and who we are as individuals, we also need to take an equal if not deeper look at the recipes we keep trying to get mixed into. In essence we need to figure out what kind of ingredient we are and then look for a. other ingredients we’ll compliment and then b. make sure we’re served to people who have a stomach for the dish we become a part of. If you’re like me, you spent a good part of your life constantly hanging out with ingredients who were anything but the pork chop to your apple sauce.

True enough, sometimes wild combinations can work. For example, I recently had some ghost pepper jelly that was mind blowing. And there are pickles who create some serious magic with peanut butter. But for the most part, if you’re a vegetarian, there’s nothing anyone can do to a ribeye steak that will make it appealing to you. Nothing. So if you’re the steak, you’ll probably find yourself feeling more appreciated if you start hanging out with steak lovers instead of vegans.

I truly do believe we need to know who we are as ingredients. We also need to recognize that not everyone is going to have a taste for what we bring to the table. And that’s OK. Just know who you are. Be happy with who you are and then find other ingredients who “get” you and appreciate you. Hopefully in doing so, you’ll have a better chance of people asking for seconds rather than throwing you in the garbage.

 

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What’s up with Miley Presley?

Alright. I get it. Miley stirred the pot. We love to judge so you can’t really be surprised at the amount of attention the story has gotten. I myself was a bit conflicted. The creative free spirit in me was all, “you go do your thing there little miss” while the dad in me was more “what the hell is she thinkin’?” And yes, as a father of two young daughters, I was more like, whoa there partner. Let’s see what’s on Sprout shall we.
elvis-presley_hips

So lets talk context. My kids love music and it’s kind of an important thing in our household. I make a point of exposing the kids to everything from Robert Johnson to Chopin, Doris Day to Yes, Cole Porter to The 88 and everything in between. I also try to listen to the music they like and do my best to keep up with what’s influencing them. Sometimes that means turning the station and other times just keeping my mouth shut and rolling my eyes.

If you’re going to teach kids about music; I think it’s important to teach them about everything that comes with it. The stories of the artists. Their histories. The good, the bad and the ugly. And that includes Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Milli Vanilli, Amy Winehouse, Woodstock, Jim Morrison, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Miley Cyrus etc. Talk about it and then hear what they think about it. I think you’ll be surprised at some of the comments.

It also includes teaching them about all of the shocking things that have happened in music throughout the decades. How Elvis the pelvis was only shot from the waist up on Ed Sullivan because his happy hips were too dangerous for network television and would destroy the innocence of anyone under eighteen watching the show that night. Or how every Catholic in the world did the sign of the cross and twenty seven Hail Mary’s when Madonna first performed “Like a Virgin.” And of course pick a story about Jim Morrison’s on stage antics.1984VMA_madonna_10

The point is, this really doesn’t feel like news to me. A young, outspoken, uninhibited singer put themselves out
there and offended a bunch of people. Listen that film has been remade more times than Batman. And it will be made again. And again. And again. Because we’re not talking about investment bankers singing at the MTV Video Music Awards. We’re talking about artists. As someone who makes a living in the creative realm, I can tell you, we’re not necessarily normal a good part of the time and often leave people shaking their head in dismay, disagreement and disbelief at the way we communicate and see the world.

Here’s the good news. If you’re spending time with your kids. If you’re providing them with a moral foundation that’s reasonable and respectable. If you’re talking about issues with them and listening to their point of view and respecting it. Chances are they’re not going to go to school tomorrow twerking against the members of the wrestling team just because Miley and Robin bumped goodies on an awards show last night. I made tea for the
3924228914_a59ee0790c girls this evening and asked one of my daughters if anyone was talking about Miley at school today. BOY did I get an earful. And frankly, they didn’t appear too impressed. And after about ninety seconds we talked about volleyball practice, what color she wants to paint her room and this cool pair of pants she found on-line. 

So let’s be grown ups (or apparently tweens); give it ninety seconds and move on. However you feel about the performance, I really don’t believe it’s going to end the free world as we know it. It’ll probably sell some downloads, improve a number of Web sites hit totals and get a Republican or two elected in the south. But beyond that it’ll more likely just end up as one of a long line of similar moments in the history of music that decades from now will be the ground work for a good “when I was a kid” story your own children will be telling.

What’s more important is that you’re there to talk about these things with your kids and guide them. They’re going to be exposed to much worse in life. And many times you’re not going to be there to point them in the right direction. So use this as an opportunity to lay some quality ground work on the ole’ fundamentals foundation. It’s a lesson just sitting there waiting to be taught. So twerk it for all it’s worth.

 

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