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It’s hard to be happy all of the time.

People say I’m an optimist… and, by most accounts, including my own, I would have to agree.  Some days however, getting out of bed is not something that I look forward to. On those days, life is just a matter of having the determination to put one foot in front of the other.

I try to stay focused on parenting. That focus includes encouraging parents to learn from their mistakes and to revel in the challenge of raising kind, considerate children. I recognize that there are days when that seems pretty futile – and on those days I encourage them to just put one foot in front of the other.

My friends and I  have lost loved ones; parents, spouses, best friends, pets – and all of us know the chasm of emptiness that resides in our chests from those events.  Although I was trained to emotionally overcome those tragedies, that emptiness often lasts longer than I could have imagined. Those days are marked by trying to remember those people with love and putting one foot in front of the other.

My friend Randy’s grandma used to say “Life isn’t wonderful.”

When I think about that, I also think about how wonderful certain parts of life can be. When I remove my fears (about health, wealth, and our nation) I try to focus on the parts of my life that are, in fact, wonderful.

For each of us, those may be different. I have a loving family. My wife of forty years and I live in the house our children grew up in. Our family members are healthy and have healthcare (for as long as that lasts). We don’t worry about our next meal. Our kids are grown and earning their own livings (for the most part). I am, in fact a very lucky guy.

So why do I wake up depressed some days? Why does the world threaten me, when I should be threatening it?

Because shit happens.

Not every day is going to be perfect. Not every decision is going to be right, and not every interaction with another human being is going to go the way it should. Just because.

So what can I (we) do about it?

In my case, I’ve found that being generous – with time, gratitude or money – helps me feel better. To that end, sixty eight Southern Californians (including my son, Aaron) and I have decided to raise cancer-fighting money through an organization called Team in Training. This weekend we’re going to ride 100 miles around Lake Tahoe to complete our commitments (to ourselves and our donors). Our goal is to raise $250,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with which they will fight the terrible disease. If you’d like to donate to the cause and increase the number of Cancer survivors, please feel free to contribute here.

But that’s not why I’m writing this.

I’m writing to say that, even though we can all find ways to feel good, there are just days when life sucks, when the day ahead feels daunting, and that’s normal. It’s OK.

I once gave a co-worker a post-it that said “Time heals all wounds.” She put it on her bulletin board and it got us both through some tough times. I’m old enough to tell you that, if you do the work required to learn, grow and change, it’s true – time will heal most wounds… certainly the ones that are emotional.

Another way in which my coaches and teammates have put this into perspective is to say “No matter how hard it is to ride your bike up that hill, someone fighting cancer has it much harder.”

So, today and this weekend, I’ll be remembering how lucky I am that organizations like LLS are fighting hard to add happier days to the lives of cancer victims….

…and I’ll be doing it by putting one foot in front of the other.

emorylogoWe have a daughter at Emory University, home of our country’s most advanced Ebola treatment epicenter. People ask us if we’re worried and frankly, we’re not. We’re not good with panic.

Teaching our children to remain calm, find the facts, and react correctly to changing developments are among a parents’ most important jobs. But we must also remain calm ourselves!

DFW TaxiI’ve mentioned a number of times that, as a father, I compare myself to a taxi driver guiding his children through life. In their early years, they ride in the back of my cab and I show them the best ways to get from place to place. They don’t’ have much input with regard to the route, but they’re certainly welcome to make observations and to discuss things we see along the way.

As the kids get older, they may chime in about traffic, and we can share some route-based decisions. I know that someday they will be driving their own vehicles, so I teach them to navigate while I’m still around as their safety net.

CautionSignEven though there are times when the cab is almost out of gas or the tires may burst, I avoid making them aware of those problems because it’s my job to make them comfortable enough to look out the windows and learn about the world.

As a parent, I always want my child to feel safe even if I’m a little worried (which is just about as much fear as I would show my children). I also know that the world is full of scary or dangerous things, some of which require everyday attention — like swimming pools, electricity, sharp edges, and plastic bags – while others are more conceptual (like disease, war, fire, and death).

Knowing that we’re not always around to offer reassurance, I believe we should give our children the following tools to comfort themselves:

  1. Be skeptical. Teach them not to believe everything that people tell them. Research the facts to avoid repeating dumb things. Ask your kids if they can give you an example of someone telling them something crazy that they knew was untrue. Tell them the story of Chicken Little.
  2. Know your source. Identify the people who like to spread news, especially bad news, and weigh the value of their information. Explain the concept of “drama” because most of what bothers tweens is drama – not substance. Teach them to avoid “bandwagoning” – becoming one of the dramatists.
  3. Pause to educate. Delay your reaction until you can find the facts. There are many places where information about the threat (or non-threat) of Ebola can be found. If your child asks, sit down at the computer with and find the facts.
  4. Remain calm. Teach them the dangers of panic. The world was full of smokers when I was young. One of them was a good friend who, while driving, lit a cigarette and accidentally dropped the match in his lap. His panic to find the ember and put it out was so extreme that he steered his car right off the road and into a tree. It was the panic that got him, not the match.
  5. Offer reassurance.. If something scares your child, use your strength and knowledge to teach away their fear. When I was little, I was afraid of the dark. My mother asked me if I wanted to stay afraid, or learn more about the dark. I wanted to learn more and, with my agreement, she told me to get in my closet and get comfortable. Once in the closet, she said “I’m going to close the door until there’s a sliver of light – will that be OK?” I meekly said “Yes.” And she closed the door to the sliver. She reminded me that I was safe, nothing had changed, and that there was nothing in the closet that could harm me. Then she asked if I thought I could sit in the closet with the door closed. “I guess so.” I said, and she closed the door the rest of the way. Once my eyes grew accustomed to the absolute darkness I could see that nothing had changed. There were no demons, and I was no longer afraid. My mom suggested that I just go to sleep… it would be a good way to kill some time if I was stuck in a dark place. Years later on a tour of Alcatraz, I was put in a solitary confinement cell for twenty minutes. Easy peasy. I took nap.

ignoranceinactionEbola is scary and it’s being talked about almost everywhere. When there’s danger, realistic precautions need to be taken. But there is a difference between teaching preparation for a tornado or an earthquake perhaps and worrying about a disease in a far off place.

My mother used to quote Goethe when she’d say, “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”

Remember, panic is more contagious than Ebola – and probably more harmful.  Do your kids a favor, teach them to stay calm and check the facts.

EmSonogramIf I could tell parents one thing, I would caution against thinking or emoting on behalf of their children. I would tell them that their young children don’t care if they are a working mom, or a stay at home dad, or a traveling salesperson. Their children only know one type of mother or father – and they are it – whether they are single, divorced, gay, straight, working or not. They are the definition of “parent” – and they have a responsibility to do the job and not make excuses based on their situation or what they believe their child is feeling or thinking.

RaisingChildrenFinalFrontCvrWebI truly appreciate the reviews my book gets on Amazon.com. I think the feedback is instructive and important. A recent review notes that the reader was turned off by a perceived “traditional two parent perspective” and that my book “does not address modern families in their many permutations.”

When my editors and I sat down to finalize the content in the book, we were very aware that it was largely based on my experience as a father in a two-parent household. Far from NOT recognizing this situation, we saw the vastness of trying to speak to all types of parents. We determined that I should write what I know in a mindful and practical way.

I concluded, for example, that the S.M.A.R.T. principles laid out in the book (Set an example, Make the rules, Apply the rules, Respect yourself, and Teach in all things) are applicable to EVERY type of parent.
AskDadCleanNo matter the structure of your particular family, it’s absolutely essential that you set a proper example for a child – whether you are a father, mother, step mother, step father, uncle, aunt, best friend, or whatever. I find that parents often believe that a change in their circumstances (their marriage, their dating life, their employment) affects the way that they parent their children. But no matter what happens in our lives, as parents we must always remember that our children are looking to us as examples. If we handle life with grace, gratitude, and kindness, so will they.

In setting an example, we are asked to define our values. Those values don’t change because we live in a blended family, or because our dad is single. When we work to make the rules, it doesn’t matter whether we’re a two parent family or not.

IMG_2734Applying rules gets a little more complicated because we may not be the only ones guiding our children through the process. Nonetheless, it’s important that we think of ourselves as team managers. Although we can only be responsible for the way our children are treated when they are with us, it doesn’t hurt to communicate our expectations with everyone involved in their care.

If there is no communication between parents, I’d ask the parties to return to setting an example (of how to communicate like adults) and attempt to do what’s in the best interest of the child. If that doesn’t work, I’d suggest parenting as best you know how – because you’re the only person whose behavior you can control.

No matter your circumstances, it is unlikely that your child will respect you if you don’t respect yourself. Respecting yourself is transferrable no matter what type of family you’re living in. Mom is mom, dad is dad – we have our expectations, and if our children fail to meet them, it is up to us to let those children know how we feel about it.

BE FIRMMy wife’s mother used to say “People will treat you the way you allow them to.” This goes for your children too. If you let them get away with back talk, disobedience, or other forms of disrespect, you’ll end up with uncontrollable children. Period. So, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in a blended family, or a single parent, or a gay parent, or whatever – the need to believe that you are worthy of respect is absolutely crucial.

When it comes to teaching, the bottom line is we’re all teachers. Every person our children encounter has the ability to teach them something, whether it’s the mailman who is kind and reliable, the grocery clerk who reminds you that you forget one of your bags, their teacher, your best friends, your spouse, your significant other, or whoever. Our job is to teach our children to navigate the world and, no matter who else is offering lessons, it’s our responsibility as parents, or step parents, or half-parents, or foster parents to be confident in the things we teach them.

It’s true that I’ve had the benefit of parenting with a wonderful partner, and my children have benefited from the consistency of a two parent household. But there are plenty of children out there who have benefited from common sense values and principles – whether their parents read my book or not.

Believe in yourself. Believe in your children. You will not be disappointed.

or…  EXCUSES PART TWO

ScribblesIn a previous blog I addressed the folly of parents too frequently accepting excuses from our children. I also mentioned the possibility of parents actually making up excuses on behalf of their kids – as in, they ate sugar and got all wired up, which is why they covered the walls of their room with crayon scribbles (true story!)

But what about the excuses we make up on our own behalf — the stories we tell ourselves, and how those stories affect our roles as parents?

FatherChildIconLet’s start from our child’s point of view.  Remember, our young ones are pretty much blank slates, so they have no built-in expectation or “definition” of what a Mommy or a Daddy is and when they’re toddlers, they’re not interested in comparing their parents with other parents.  All they know is YOU.  If you’re a working mom, or a stay at home dad – you are the definition of mom and dad to them.

Our problem is that we have a tendency to put ourselves at a disadvantage through self-criticism that causes us to be defensive about the job we’re doing.  “I’m a single parent.” or “I’m a working mother.” Okay – but how does that change your responsibility to your child?  Yes, working motherhood makes things more complicated. But does that alter our child’s perception that we are the definition of what parents are?  In fact, that perception does not change whether you’re working, single, divorced, or on the road. Parenthood is defined by what you bring to your children — whether it’s by touch, phone, or Skype – whether it’s every morning, or every night, or every other night.MotherCHildIcon

Kids don’t punch a clock.  When we’re not there, they miss us – and that’s because they’re hardwired to need our guidance, our confidence, and our approval.  It’s obviously nice when we can hold them and hug them, but if it’s not always possible, it’s important that we accept that (about ourselves) and not let it affect our identity as parents. Is there such thing as a perfect parent?  Can anyone possibly “be there” all the time?

No – not possible.

The job has built-in challenges and flaws, so let’s accept them and not play defense.

When JoAnn was toilet training our children, she (and the “student”) made their way to our bathroom.  During working hours, I would be at my office doing my job – earning a living.  But JoAnn phoned me EVERY time our kid made a wee wee in the potty so that I could congratulate him or her.  I wasn’t physically there, but we managed to find a way around that without making my job into an excuse for not having “been there” and our kids were aware that Daddy was really proud!  (I don’t think they cared if I was home or on the other end of the phone.)

ManyProfessionsI loved my parents very much, but they rarely made it to my little league games.  My dad was a hard working guy.  He went on business trips weekly and he taught a class on Tuesday nights. I didn’t blame him for that, mostly because he never blamed himself. He never made excuses or felt a need to make them – that was his job, and his rhythm.  In those days, men weren’t expected to be participatory – but I didn’t feel any sort of loss because my father wasn’t always around.

My mom did a very good job of holding the line, applying the rules, and keeping me on course, but my dad was who I wanted to be like.  I’ve written about the fact that he spanked me.  I’ve written about his need to dominate discussions. But he taught me the value of honesty, and I saw how he devoted his time to doing things for other people, including me – which included the time he spent working away from home.

As parents, we are who we are.  Our identity isn’t changed by excuses, or by career demands, or by personal challenges.  Childhood may not be the time of innocence that the Romantic poets depicted, but we can do our kids a favor by not making our job as parents any harder than it needs to be by coming to it on the defensive.

And if it seems so hard that we need to start making excuses for ourselves, we should keep those excuses to ourselves.

You’re there and you care.  That’s what makes you a parent.

ME N MILEY

MielyTwerksEverybody was tweaked about Miley Cyrus and her apparently quite lucrative twerking display, but I see a far more interesting phenomena occurring on a daily basis.

I’m going to start at the beginning.

When I was a kid my parents would get angry at me for “showing off.”  In those days, showing off meant grabbing the attention of everyone at the party to show them something I could do that was really cool – like dangling a spoon from my nose.  Pretty harmless stuff, and usually the kind of action that stayed within the confines of our home, or the restaurant.  In my own world, I was famous for it.

Today, the world is TRULY a stage – and every person with a smartphone is a player.

This means that our children are bombarded by millions of people who are “showing off”… essentially sharing their special skill or an opinion, or something that they feel is important.  I’m much more tolerant of this than my parents were.  I’ve actually become convinced that it’s not such a bad thing.  In fact, in ElephantandDogmany cases, where people are demonstrating extraordinary skills, acts of kindness, or even expressing political points of view, we can find ourselves converging on these “memes” as a way of unifying ourselves as a society.  All of us have seen incredible videos… Russian Dashboard cams showing acts of kindness (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzBInt4zljQ) , or a video about randomly positive behavior (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F5lbMrCj80) and, of course, this 8 Million hit incredible father / son story – (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCAwXb9n7EY)

So what does this have to do with Miley Cyrus?

Miley’s been on the stage for a very long time, and she’s only twenty.  Her need to define herself, and move away from her Disney image, requires something radical. If Miley wants to twerk her way into heaven that’s her business, and she’ll have to explain it to her kids someday (which I hope she’ll do).  My objective, however, is to raise my kids to know that Miley isn’t yet the role model that her financial success and media exposure might indicate.

AtticusFinchSo, who are our kid’s most important role models?

We are.

Although I have occasionally twerked in our home, I’ve made a point of not doing it in public (which, I believe shows great impulse control) and I know my offspring are quite relieved about that.  How do I know?  Because, even though they are all now adults, we always shared our opinions of the world around us and listened to theirs.

familychainhandDiscussing bad behavior, when your child sees it or is exposed to it, is a very good way of defining your own parental expectations.  At this point, I can trust that my children are not impressed or influenced by bad behavior.  But, even when they were young and they saw a kid being a “poor sport” in Little League, or using foul language, they knew, from their relationship with us, that those behaviors were unacceptable.  This allowed us the comfort of knowing that they could process those images from a position of knowledge and comfort – rather from a place that, needing attention, mimics the noise of that kid on the field or popular cultural novas.

So… does Miley’s twerking bother me?  Not really.

mileyPrettyAs long as we’ve got “Toddlers and Tiaras”, “Dance Moms”, the “Real Housewives” of anywhere – shows that feature ridiculous adult behavior in a way that celebrates and enriches bad parents – Miley Cyrus will just be a kid showing off.

I’m a guy.   I like my space.   I like my stuff.   I love my wife.

For the first time in thirty three years I have them all back to myself.

EmilyDropOffYes, the Dropoff at school was successful and it appears our adorable daughter will merge into the flow of college like a good driver getting onto the freeway.  The road is clear (we like her college), and she’s a very responsible driver.  Worst case she has three brothers and two parents for GPS.

Our empty nest is, of course, relative.  In today’s connected frenzy there is no real solitude (nor would I want that), but JoAnn, my lovely wife, no longer has to feel the compulsion to cook, or be a waitress, or monitor every coming and going in our daughter’s life.

Our grown sons, bless their male souls, have found a wonderful rhythm with us.  They check in, say hello, give brief updates, and then move along their way.  This is fine for me, as it’s my style of communication.  If they want to “get deep”, like talk about their problems or something, I hand the phone to their mom.  They know what type of advice I give best, and they know that their mom will listen for much longer.  That’s the beauty of this thing.

REGJEGLagunaPundits, our friends who have been Empty Nesters for at least one semester, tell us that we have plenty to keep us occupied.  We’ve got a wedding in October and, someday… we’ll be grandparents.  Ironically, as much as JoAnn feels sadness about having this empty nest, she’s not particularly interested in having an infant or toddlers running around right now either.  Even more ironically, I kind of like the idea of grandchildren.  It’s really about finding the new balance.

For thirty-three years we have been parents.  What were once discussions about music, movies, adventure and dreams were partially hijacked by discussions about our kids, their teachers, their sports, their friends… and that was perfectly fine.  In fact, empty nest or not, our conversations are still dominated by issues related to our roles as parents and that’s OK, we love what our children bring to our lives.

JetskiSuddenly, however, we’re back to us.  My career has morphed, and JoAnn’s continues.  For the first time, though, I’ve heard her talking about the possibility of a change – of diversifying her interests and looking at some new things.  Maybe she’d be willing to collaborate with me on my next project… “THIS, I think, is what being Empty Nesters is about!”

It’s day three, and already the possibilities are limitless.  Anyone want to go Jet-skiing?

JealousChildI have a friend who feels that when her little brother was born, he “stole” all the love and affection that her parents had previously been giving to her.

I suspect that this is a common feeling among first-born children.  In this case, my friend dedicated herself to giving her own first-born preferential treatment and, by treating that child differently, created an imbalance in the family; ultimately recreating the situation she had complained about in her childhood.  This would either cause her other children to feel less loved or neglected, or her first-born to become so sensitized and aware of her favor that anything short of extraordinary attention would feel like neglect.  This situation clearly wasn’t going to lead to measured and equal loving throughout the family.

Ironically, this friend — whose child is now old enough to go to therapy with her — explained to us recently that she was shocked to hear that he always felt separate from his siblings.  Because he was always treated differently, he didn’t feel like “part of the family.”

The effort she had made to single out her son had been successful. Unfortunately, it backfired.  Not only did he not feel he was getting anything special; he actually believed he was being separated from the others, and was, therefore, not equal.

BoysAdmireBabyEmJoAnn and I believe in “100% Maximum Love.”  Typically, the group who qualifies includes our children, our siblings (and their families), our parents, our grandparents, and a few whacky individuals who are “family” (phony aunts and uncles, etc.)

Recipients of maximum love have no need to compete for “favorite” – because everyone is the favorite.  When asked by one of our children, “Who do you love more?”  we reply, “We love you all equally — the maximum.”  When we’re asked, “Who is your favorite?” We say, “You are all our favorites.”

GradKidsMaximum love really simplifies family life and allows us parents to completely avoid that whole “How much do you love me?” battle.  When we asked our third son, Coby, if he knew how much his mom and dad loved him.   He said “ “You love me as big as the sky.”

He was absolutely right.

EmSleeps_5_00My adorable wife and I are sending our youngest, and last, child off to college next week.  She is our fourth, and her departure comes with some significance.  We started our family in 1980 and added new members in ’83, ‘89, and ‘95 respectively.  Our oldest child is thirty-three, which means that JoAnn and I have had kids in our house for more than half of our lives.

We’re empty nesters all right.  We’ve got a wonderful home that, over the last years has experienced a decrease in noise, hunger, and homework.

Here we are, on the brink of the abyss.

I’m feeling a renewed freedom.  If we want to go to the movies, we can.  If we want to lounge around, we will.  If we feel like traveling, we’ll pack our bags.  For JoAnn, however, there is a significant void.  Intellectually it’s quite easy for her to fill in the hole.  She has a career, but she’s always carried that load.  She texts with our daughter all day – but she won’t need to wait up anymore.  She worries about cooking dinner – now she won’t, but none of this is relief she can feel quite yet.  Frankly, we’re just living in Suckville.

BlogLite08I figure we’ll be living here for a month or so.  They say “One door closes and another opens.” To me, this just means there’s going to be a draft in our house for a while.  There’s no question that we’re going to miss Emily’s morning and afternoon rituals – breakfast on the run, homework on the couch.  We’ll miss the sudden dance performances, and conversation re-enactments.  We’ll miss the drama of the drama, and we’ll miss the sweet late night, no-holds-barred conversations.  I’ll miss the moments when our wonderful daughter stands next to my wife, brilliantly and happily reflecting the wonderful woman who has taught her, so perfectly, how to be an amazing and sweet grownup girl.  Yes, it’s going be Suckville.

EHGJGGBeachAfter a while though, with constant doses of Skype, and love from our other three children – all sons who were raised to protect and honor their mother – we will find the new normal.  We will begin to ignore the void, or fill it with a new type of busy that will include the addition of a new daughter (in the upcoming wedding of our second son), the ongoing growth of our oldest, and the remarkable exploits of our third.  We will be reminded of the luck we have in our friendships, and the strength we find in each other.  We will find comfort in the good fortune we have in being able to send our daughter to a fine school, even when it hurts.  But that’s our job.

Before we know it, she will be home for her brother’s October wedding and after that, it will suddenly be Thanksgiving, The Holidays, and the New Year.

As much as I’d like to think that I’m tough and my daughter is just moving into this new phase, I have to say that I’ll be joining JoAnn as we pass through Suckville.  I just hope the New Normal is right around the bend.

ImageParenting is a long process, and there’s no question that mistakes get made along the way.  Sometimes we just react without thinking.  Sometimes we just don’t want to be bothered with thinking things through.  Sometimes we act selfishly.

Parents are people, too.

Once, after staying up late to finish an assignment, Ben asked if he could sleep late instead of going to school early the next morning.  Usually his carpool picks him up at 7:30 but, in a bid to sleep late, he explained that his first period class was a “joke” (Phys. Ed. – working out in the weight room) and that he had no other classes until 10 A.M.

My reaction was very unsympathetic: “You have a commitment!” “Is school a “joke” to you?” “You don’t just miss school because you’re too tired to get out of bed!”

I felt pretty good about being firm.

JoAnn thought I had been unnecessarily rigid.  (Yes – this information was shared with me in one of those mirroring moments!)

That’s how I went to sleep.

The following morning, when I was up preparing to meet my obligations by going to work, Benjy too was getting his stuff together and waiting for his carpool.  Here he was, being the good son that I expected him to be, and here I was, the ogre father, forcing him to go to school and attend what he considered a boring and unnecessary class followed by sitting for two periods in study hall until his next class came along.  I knew it was the right thing for him, but I couldn’t help having sympathy for the sleepy lug before me.

The best I could do was encourage him to make the most of the study hall and tell him that I loved him.  I also made a point of telling him that I really appreciated the fact that he was going to school early and that undoubtedly something good would happen to him as a result of being at school early.  It was the best I could hope for.

He went quietly off to school, and we never discussed the matter again.  It was just another day for him, one that started a little earlier than he would have liked.  I vowed to be a little more careful about being a knee-jerk naysayer.

But how do you balance your feelings of guilt with your need to maintain a position of strength or authority?  It’s tough; and a lot depends on the age of your child.

Younger children usually don’t even know we’ve made a mistake.  They see us as a force of nature, like rain.  Today we made them go to school; tomorrow we may let them have ice cream.  Our power can’t be controlled, just lived with and prepared for.  If we’ve hurt their feelings, we apologize for hurting them, but we also need to explain clearly what motivated our behavior so that the lesson is not lost on them.

For example, Benjy and Coby are five years apart in age, which means that there was a period of time when Benjy, and all of us, had to be very patient with Coby because he wanted to be noticed.  One night, I’d had it, and I yelled at Coby for interrupting Benjy.  At the time, Coby’s storytelling skills needed a little practice.  He’d tell a five-minute story and it would go nowhere.  After a few of those stories we had a tendency to tune out.  This particular evening, Coby was trying to interrupt so that he could tell yet another story when I reached the end of my rope.

I looked at him and stated firmly, “Be quiet!” and Coby dissolved into tears.  Then, we both had a period of cooling off.  Later that evening I went into his room and calmly explained to him why I had gotten so angry.  We agreed that he would try to listen more and talk less and we sealed our agreement with a kiss.  My father had been very tough on me, but, what I will always remember about him was that he would apologize or explain himself to me after most of his outbursts.

Admitting we might have been wrong, or actually being wrong is something that occurs more often as our children get older.  This is because, as they grow up, their knowledge and communication skills improve.  As a result, our communication with them becomes more sophisticated.  Issues that used to be black and white have new angles added to them.  Absolute bedtimes become curfews with fifteen-minute grace periods.  Answers like “no” become “we’ll see.”

We go with our gut and believe in it.  When we’re making a minimum of ten decisions a day, we’re going to second-guess a few of them and we might actually regret one or two (in a decade).  Sometimes trying to compensate for those mistakes out of regret just compounds them.

We’ve learned not to change our decision-making criteria today because of a bad choice we made yesterday.  That’s like anticipating an umpire who called a bad strike will call a ball the next time the pitcher throws one straight down the middle.  As much as we might hope that all wrongs can be righted, it doesn’t happen that way.  The batter just gets to take advantage of that one, bad call.

Everybody makes mistakes.  We just have to keep moving on.  The best we can do, and this always applies, is love our kids and learn from our mistakes.

MISHAPS AND MILESTONES

BandagedKneeYesterday I had the pleasure of sitting next to an adorable two-year-old named Amelia and her loving parents.  Proactively, her mom pointed out that the small cuts Amelia had on her upper lip and nose were the result of a fall that had occurred that morning “Wouldn’t you know it,” she said, “the day of a big party, she falls and cuts her lip.”

As a father of four, I would know it.

I’d also know that this poorly timed little incident was going to be the first of many.  I can’t count how many times one of our kids appeared in a school play or musical performance with a cast on their arm, a patch on their eye, or a band-aid on their face.  I also recall that when I was about six, I decided to cut my own hair just before a similarly public appearance.

I joked with Amelia’s mom that this wouldn’t be the last of these little events and that the timing of these lessons is rarely ideal, but I was also reminded that each of these escalating things – these scraped knuckles, these first rides on a two-wheeler, these early broken hearts, are all important events along the way to adulthood.

Em's GraduationOur daughter, Emily, will be going off to college in a few weeks.  She’s ridden a two-wheeler, she’s scraped her knee and banged her head.  She’s had her heart broken, and we’ve been there to help her through it all.  Yesterday a good friend sent us an excellent article from the Huff Post written by Marshall P. Duke, a professor at Emory University, who has been watching parents drop their “children” off at college for forty-three years.  What is most satisfying in the article is the recognition that dropping your child at college is just another one of those ongoing milestones that make up our lives as children and parents.  It’s part of the natural flow of things – as much a part as their first step, their first words, and their first opinion.  It’s what’s supposed to happen and, as such, it’s something to be embraced as yet another rung on the way up the ladder.  It’s a really good article and I’ve put a link at the end of this posting.

BikeRidingKidSo, just as sure that I am that Amelia and her parents will be experiencing, surviving, and learning from each of the minor mishaps and major milestones that lie ahead of them, I am equally sure that JoAnn and I will enjoy watching and sharing the new and different challenges that will come with Emily’s independence.  Additionally, we will cheer for her and enjoy her success as she conquers them.  You see, all of those little mishaps, heartbreaks, and disappointments have prepared her (and us) for this – and that’s what they’re supposed to do.

Link to the article:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marshall-p-duke/starting-college-a-guide-_b_3670553.html?utm_hp_ref=tw