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Find The Good

During any school break, let alone anything over ten days, you get to know your kids on a WHOLE new level. During this recent time together I had noticed that my kids had fallen into the trap of finding everything wrong with each other along with everything around them. Just a constant bemoaning about every little detail. This then became combined with chronic bickering back and forth about every minute detail about every moment of their day. Eventually each became focused on what they disliked about the others. This then started to seep into their daily lives and I started to hear negativity regarding all kinds of things ranging from clothes to friends to the weather. “It’s blue!” “NO it’s GREEN!” “You’re dumb!” “You’re stupid!”

When you go through a divorce, it’s very easy to focus on the negative. It takes a lot of energy to retrain your brain to focus on thefindthegoodladdpositives and to recognize that the world isn’t in fact out to get you despite all evidence to the contrary. Once you do, negativity begins to take on the same attributes of fingernails on a chalk board and you begin to take steps to avoid it at all costs. So when I became surrounded by this never ending centrifuge of hostility toward the cosmos, I did what any calm, rational, reasonable father would do; I yelled and sent everyone to their rooms.

As I sat in the kitchen contemplating a month long grounding with all three kids subject to nothing but bread and water twice a day and no contact with the outside world until they came to their senses, I noticed the big black chalk wall we’d created this past summer. We had just cleared all of the Christmas messages and imagery that had been created over the past couple of months and it was staring at me like a giant blank canvas. I walked over toward it and picked up a piece of chalk and began to write:

“FIND THE GOOD!”

A simple and direct objective. Find the good. It exists in every person, place, situation, event, environment and circumstance. Sometimes we need to look a little harder to see it, but it’s always there to build on. And it’s up to us to train our brain to seek it out. I am by no means a master at this, but I saw this as an opportunity to offer the kids one simple task and see if I couldn’t get them to recognize that it’s their choice to focus on the positive. Throughout the day, simply find the good. Hone in on it. And then build on it.

We’ll see how it works. But it’s there in big bold letters for all (including myself) to see throughout the day. “FIND THE GOOD.” A gentle reminder that positive is so much more productive and fun than negative. I’ll likely start putting up a new task every week or every month. But for now all I want is for the kids to help each other find the good in their day, in their family, and in their world. Because despite what the world tells us sometimes, there’s a lot of it to be found if we’ll simply look a little harder.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2015 in Divorce, kids, negative

 

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Trust Me

Do you remember when you believed everything people told you? Or knew in your heart that your “bestie” that week was going to be your “bestie” for life? Unfortunately, eventually we catch our parents leaving a dollar under our pillow or our best friend sits with someone else at lunch and our view of the world is forever changed. Watching my children get hurt through what is normal every day interaction with human beings is tough. You can’t protect them from it. It just happens as we all know. The world is not there to serve them which is a hard lesson to learn sometimes. Sometimes people hurt you, even if it’s unintentional. All you can do is prepare them and then be there to catch them if they fall and reassure them that it’s just a part of life. Some of us can shrug it off relatively easily, others, not so much.

But let’s face it. When you’re an adult and have been hurt enough times, it’s hard enough yourself to trust, let alone teach someone else to trust. Despite being fortunate enough to have had terrific mentors and loving family members; like you, throughout my life I’ve had my share of backstabbing friends, self serving bosses, lying girlfriends, and haphazard thieves who helped themselves to guitars out of the trunk of my car. And then there’s life’s ability to sucker punch you, like when my best friend died at the age of twenty two. And, of course, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance the one relationship1390267987623884429306.15044 you knew you could count on for eternity simply went Ker-Plunk for what could be a multitude of reasons.

So there you sit; all wounded and banged up, when your kid walks in crying because their best friend lied to them or said something mean behind their back. Based on the type of day you’re having, in your head you may be thinking, “People suck honey, best you realize that now.” But you and I both know that’s not the answer nor is it a true sense of the big picture. Yes, some people suck. And sometimes people hurt you inadvertently or unknowingly simply because of childhood wounds that leave you vulnerable to certain actions by those around you. Sometimes you simply assume the worst or misread someone’s actions. Or perhaps their own world may be a train wreck and you simply happen to be standing on the tracks at the wrong time.

Regardless, the truth is life is complicated and humans are a crapshoot. My mentor in college once told me, “Every day we each have the potential to be the asshole. So look in the mirror each morning and ask yourself, will I let it be me today?”

Staying positive and remaining a trusting soul takes effort and character. I’ve done a relatively good job of being able to focus on the positive or overcome the adversity of negativity throughout my life; but trust is a whole other ball of wax. That one has always been a struggle for me and every knock down only makes it harder.

As I watch my kids grow, evolve, learn and progress, I realize there are certain lessons I need to teach them that I myself need to learn as well. Not giving up on humanity, my world or those around me is one of them. Becoming a more giving and open individual is another one; even if it means leaving myself open to pain. Finding that balance between being smart, cautious and streetwise while being trusting, open and vulnerable is one of life’s greatest challenges. But to close ourselves off completely due to hurt, anger, disappointment or perceived judgement is a dangerous path to take. We may need to hole up for a bit to lick our wounds, but eventually we need to let people back in and give them an opportunity to gain our trust.

My children will hurt. That’s a given. I can’t help that fact. They’re human as are those around them. But despite having experienced my share of hurt and disappointment, I can teach them to continue trusting and believing in people, life, their world and the cosmos. To be trustworthy in their own right. To appreciate and understand human nature. To be self reliant and strong. To be vulnerable but self assured. To be giving as well as FORgiving.

And above all, I can give them the greatest gift; and that is to always trust themselves.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Who Knew Divorce Was Such Hard Work?

Trust is one of the cornerstones of a successful marriage and for some, the lack of it is often what leads to the end of the marriage. The reality is that trust is also the cornerstone of a successful divorce. Stop laughing. If you’re divorced and have kids, you already know divorce is as much work, if not more, than marriage. Especially if that divorce involves kids and a co-parenting plan. Even if you had trust in your marriage, maintaining it as two single parents can be a struggle at times. It’s hard enough to build trust when both parties are living under one roof and building the same life together. Now you’re in two separate homes, living two separate lives, and reaching for different north stars as individuals. While you’re still very much focused on raising the kids together, other aspects of your lives are changing. Circumstances are going to change and a certain amount of distance will continue to expand between the two of you as your lives take you in different directions. Knowing in the back of your mind that your ex will have less and less concern for your own personal needs, wants and visions, it’s natural that defenses will go up any time there’s a sign that one of you is pulling away or acting more independently.
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This works both ways.

Finding that balance between starting a new life while still managing essential parts of the old one is, in my opinion, the hardest part of divorce. The amount of thought, effort and consideration it takes to ride the waves of two separate lives that are intertwined through parenthood can be hell sometimes. I’ve stated before and it bares repeating; the death of a marriage is a slow arduous process that continues even after the papers are signed. Even as a divorced couple there are still elements of our old relationship that you’re naturally going to hold on to and attempt to maintain. Let’s face it, change is hard. Even if that change is a positive one. Learning to coexist under a different set of rules is backbreaking.

The reality is, your divorce isn’t unlike any other relationship you have. There will be ebbs and flows on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. Elements of your new lives will influence decisions and actions and you’ll wake up some mornings wondering, “what the hell just happened?” I promise you that for every freak out moment you have, your ex is having three. If you both truly care for your children, you’re both going to get your dander up on occasion when you don’t feel a fluid, even keeled, co-parenting plan in action. You’re also going to go into a mental tailspin any time you see your ex make a move that may or may not indirectly affect your own life. As much as you’re living separate lives, as parents it’s no secret that your own tides are influenced by your ex’s moon from time to time. Try to remember; your lives are likely going a mile a minute. You’re both juggling a LOT as you attempt to be both the mom and the dad at home. You’re going to go through financial waves that influence your mood and your decision making. From time to time the lines of communication are going to breakdown. There will be misunderstandings and misreads. When they happen, do your best to stop and scan the current landscape. Certain cornerstones have likely been knocked out of place and you and your ex are going to have to reset them properly. That may take a bit of time and effort but it has to happen otherwise everyone loses.

So stop. Breathe. Shake it off and get back to focusing on the kids. Then when you’re ready and the dust settles, regroup and rebuild.

It’s all a good lesson in trusting the cosmos.

 

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2014 in Daily Life, dealing with stress, Divorce, trust

 

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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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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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