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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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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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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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Oh Romeo Romeo!

I’m not a girl. Never dreamed of being a princess. Never imagined finding my prince charming and living a fairytale life. But I do have two young daughters. And from conversations we’ve had, I know they’re already starting to plan their weddings and I’m sure there’s a prince in the equation. Yet even at their tender ages, I can see they’re beginning to question the reality of ‘boys’ and whether Disney is basically full of #%@&.

Our kids today deal with social hurt on a level I don’t think we can comprehend. It was hard when WE were sixteen. I can only imagine what it’s like to be nine or ten in today’s world. But as a dad, and I’ve written about images-21this before, I believe we fathers have an opportunity and an obligation to be our daughters’ first knight in shining armor. We have a chance to set the bar that our daughters will look to as a measuring stick as they begin discovering romantic relationships.

It’s a tough balance, especially when you’re a single dad. You’re the disciplinarian, coach, chef, housekeeper, tutor and yes, you set the rules and uphold them. I personally think that it’s important that your kids see that everything you’re doing for them is for the purpose of keeping them safe. That you’re there to protect them above all things. To do that I also think it’s crucial that you continually work to maintain an open line of communication with your kids. Because one day, someone is going to hurt your little girl. God forbid it be physically, but even a broken heart is inevitable and the last thing you want is for your daughter to feel all alone, that she deserved it or like no one cares about her.

On some level, I’m a firm believer that every little girl wants to know that dad is there to protect them. I think it’s even more important that along with all of the reprimands we tend to hand out during the week, that they continually here us say how much they’re worth protecting. If we don’t believe they’re special, why should they? Let’s face it, it’s easy to get lost in being “dad.” In pointing out all of the things our kids do wrong and the poor choices they tend to make as kids. We harp on them about cleaning up. About being nice to each other. Keeping up with their things. We’re the first to point out that doing summersaults off the couch and into the beanbag chair is not a good idea or that using your little brother as a bike ramp may not be the best choice.

I’m sure they get plenty of messages from us about how they’re doing things wrong. We forget sometimes that they’re sensitive little egos get bombarded with reminders of how imperfect they are on a daily basis. Not just from us, but from the world outside as well. Which is all the more chivalryreason we need to stop once in a while and remind them of how amazing they are. How smart we think they are. How pretty they are. How brilliant they are and how special they are. And that no matter what the current state of our relationship with them is, if they ever need us to “just be there,” they only need ask.

I’m not saying we should be demonstrating that women need men. Or that girls can’t defend themselves. That’s not it at all. To me it’s all about respect and letting them know that above all, we’ve got their back. This isn’t necessarily about boys and girls. Because let’s be honest, one day your little girl may bring home another little girl to meet mom and dad. For now, I think what’s important is to let them know that they’re important and that anyone, boy or girl, who makes them feel anything less than special, isn’t worth their time. To teach them to focus on being around people who lift them up and treat them the way they deserve to be treated.

Being a single dad (or mom) means being a lot of different things to your kids. I’m finding that as my kids begin to get a little older and start to get to the age where the idea of romantic relationships are coming into play; I’m already starting to get very protective. I’m not going to apologize for that. And honestly I don’t think my daughters would want me to. I think as they mature and start to hang out with boys, they need (and want) to know that there is at least one boy on this planet who thinks their honor is worth defending. Because if they can find chivalry at home, perhaps they’ll believe they can find it again in another kingdom.

 

 

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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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