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Aside

So, how’re you holding up? Keeping it all together?

Sometimes I have a difficult time coming up with a topic to write about. Today is one of those days. And yet I feel compelled to write to you and encourage you to keep moving forward; to keep the faith and to fight throughhow_you_doin whatever negativity you might be dealing with. Some days we simply need someone to tell us we’re amazing. That what we’re doing is epic. Sometimes it’s just nice to hear someone say, “I don’t know how you do it.”

Just the fact that you’re there for your kids is something to be both proud of and thankful for. Some dads leave a divorce and put it all behind them, including their kids. I wish there was something I could say to those dads, but chances are those dads probably aren’t reading this blog. I feel bad for those fathers because they’re really missing out on one of the most amazing experiences life has to offer. Keep in mind I’m not talking about dads who want to be there, but have limited access to the kids due to the courts. I’m talking about the dads who just don’t care. Because they would if they knew what they were missing.

But it’s not easy and it doesn’t come without an effort as you well know. It doesn’t come without battles, compromises and standing up for yourself AND your kids. There is a reason why you get up every morning, idadjpg-85702c75c414f9a9make school lunches, stay up late washing a special pair of jeans your daughter wants to wear to school in the morning, coach a soccer team or teach your kid how to make the perfect pancake. There’s a reason you stop what you’re doing when you tuck your kids in at night to spend 30 minutes talking to them about their day. It’s because once you see your kids smile due to your efforts it becomes infectious. When you sense the impact you’re having on your kids you become astutely aware of your true purpose.

It doesn’t happen right off the bat necessarily. And I think that’s where some dads struggle. You can’t just wake up one day and expect your twelve year old kid to be your best pal. It takes time for both you and your kids to find your groove and to respect each other. It takes time to accept certain aspects of being a dad and get comfortable with others. And even when you do, there are going to be days when you struggle to keep the focus where it needs to be. Because along with your kids, there are a thousand other people pulling at you, needing you, expecting things from you. You get lost in a project, or invariably everything lands on the same day between 10 am and noon. That’s when the school calls to let you know your daughter has a temperature. Or your ex texts you to see if there’s any chance you can best_job_ive_ever_had_being_a_dad_mousepad-p144662381049604604eng3t_400meet the kids at the bus stop today because of an emergency.

It’s a balance that takes time to master and even then it’s not always easy when you’re getting it from all sides. So I’m here to tell you you’re doing great. You’re a great dad and your kids need you, typically when they seem to need you the least. But they need you because of the amazing things you bring to their lives. They need you because you’re the only dad they have and over time they’ve learned to appreciate everything you do, even when they tell you you’re the worst dad ever because you made them turn off an inappropriate program or made them clean their room or turn off the computer. They need the boundaries you set, the hugs you offer, the reassurances you give them that they’re awesome and not a freak like so many of their school mates make them feel like sometimes.

They need you dad and they need you because you’ve set the bar. And now that you’ve set it to not maintain it would be letting them down. And the fact that you’ve set the bar is the strongest indication that you’re doing a great job.

How YOU Doin’?

 

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Hey Four Eyes!

When you have more than one child, life quickly becomes a multiplication equation. For example, “If one child wants to play soccer at $125 per registration and then her two siblings decide they want to play too; how many home cooked meals will dad have to prepare in order to balance the monthly family budget?”

When you consider something for one, your head automatically multiplies it by the number of children you have. So when my son decided he needed eye glasses (despite no suggestion from teacher observations or his annual physical) I immediately pulled out my Logarithm Table and began budgeting for three. Even if the
Snellen Chart.moo.Tweens.Teens.Fun.Ideas.other two had no interest they would quickly take note of the funds expended and find a way to subtly demand equal love.

So I searched out a reasonable eye exam, which ended up costing me $45.00. (We have health insurance, but I balked at vision). We took the exam and sure enough, while developmentally he was in great shape, the doctor suggested some reading glasses to help his eyes as they “developed” further. “I TOLD YOU DAD!” And off we went to pick a pair of frames.

I’m going to cut to the chase here and tell you that the grand total (frames, lenses, warranty, exam, non-scratch coating etc) was over $400! I was floored. How did a $69.00 pair of frames suddenly become $400? It was double what I’d paid for my own pair a year or two ago. Trying to hold in my distain for what felt like a con job, I advised the “sales associate” that I would pay for the exam and go “shop.”

We went to a competitor and found something very similar for well under $200.00 which got me scratching my head. That seemed like quite a difference. So I did a quick search on my phone and low and behold I found Web site upon Web site of eye glass options for kids that were in the $30-$50 range. This included frame, lenses, case and a money back guarantee.

So the question was, “how is this possible?” I did more reading and sure enough, more and more people had grown tired of paying $400 for a pair of eye glasses and were turning to the internet for other ideas. And from all accounts it had become a viable option.

So, my son and I spent an hour or so looking on line at different sites and he found several he loved. Some bluegummysites have measuring tools you can download, some have options to upload a picture to see what glasses will look like on you. Some even offer to send you samples to try on. It’s amazing. The site we worked with (coastal.com) had a chat option to answer questions and walk you through the process. It was easy. It meant waiting for a week, but we turned that into a lesson on patience and being smart with your money. Eight days later my son had his glasses and was beyond excited to receive them in the mail.

All told, and I’m not making this up; the grand total for EVERYTHING was $48.00. (Quite a difference from the initial $400 plus.)

As a parent we have to be smart and sadly, trust no one. I remember walking out of the first place we stopped feeling like we were being taken for a ride. It just didn’t make sense and I was immediately being charged for the mack daddy version without any consult. They saw the excited kid and subsequently saw opportunity. That was very disappointing especially when I discovered through some simple research that even 100 yards down the hall was an option that 50% less. Even more so when I found a perfectly fine option for 90% less.

It just shows you yet again, how a little time and effort, a little research and stopping to think for a moment can provide opportunities to teach your kids (and yourself) the value of being patient and shopping around. In the end we all learned some lessons and truthfully can see the world a little more clearly.

 

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Power of a Hug

On more than one occasion when one of my children have been struggling, I’ve initially gotten frustrated with them and their behavior which only made matters worse. When their mood is thrust upon you, especially at the most inopportune moments, it’s easy to fall into the fatal trap of “not you too?”

There was one particular moment when my son was acting up and lashing out. I couldn’t for the life of me understand what was going on with him. He was doing everything he could to get under everyone’s skin. Once he accomplished that the negativity in the room only escalated.images-6

As the circumstance continued to spiral downward we reached a point where I simply didn’t know what to do. There was anger, frustration, disappointment, resentment, bitterness, exhaustion, rage, all bundled together building up inside of me as I began to truly hate the moment and what I was being forced to deal with.

He stood there screaming at me, calling me names, yelling, kicking, hitting; doing everything he could to lash out. The more I told him to stop, the more he increased the volume and intensity. I could feel myself boiling inside ready to do ANYTHING to stop it.

I finally hit my limit, grabbed him and held him close to me. In an instant he stopped. His body fell limp as he put his arms around my neck. A heavy sigh escaped his lungs as he laid his head on my shoulders and emotionally collapsed.

We stood there like that for about twenty minutes and the world disappeared.

I don’t know what started his fit. No idea where it came from or what initiated it. I could blame it on the divorce. 8925318-give-your-best-made-by-post-itCould blame it on his sisters. Maybe he hadn’t had enough rest. Maybe something happened at school. Who knows. Hell, who knows why we lash out at people we love sometimes.

I think about that moment from time to time. Especially when one of my kids is acting up. Trying to understand what’s going on in their little minds and hearts is an impossible task. Sometimes they end up in their room. Sometimes timeout. Sometimes they get a lecture. And sometimes they get a hug. Each moment is a new learning experience as a parent.

But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that when they’re at their worst, that’s typically when they need our best.

 

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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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