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Category Archives: Daddy Balance

How Do You Raise a One-Armed Boomerang?

When I was 18, my parents asked me what I wanted for graduation. I thought and pondered, pondered and thought. What I really wanted, above all else, was my freedom. I didn’t want to live at home anymore, my only issue was money, I didn’t have any. I devised a plan and presentation, complete with notes and figures. For graduation, I told my parents, I wanted to move out of the house. I would agree to take a class at the local college, work nights to cover my cost of living, if they would fit the bill for the apartment. Knowing that I’d be attending the University of Kansas in Lawrence after the summer, I figured this would be a great “test-run” of the college life. I even called around and found a local complex allowing for 3 month leases. After reviewing my proposal, my parents agreed, and the lease was signed.

That summer and the “Party Apartment” (as it became known) were on my mind when I heard about the “Rising Share of Young Adults living in Their Parents Home“. Apparently, at the end of 2012, 36% of young adults age 18-31 lived with their parents…36%! They are commonly called Boomerang Kids. Sent out of the house for a short while, only to return, like a boomerang, years later. That’s an amazing statistic. As a parent, it’s scary thought. I have three boys, Henry, Charlie & Max, ages 7, 4 & 1. How do I raise three One-Armed Boomerangs that fly straight through life, never making that u-turn back to my basement?

No child dreams of growing up and living with their parents. And, of course, there are situations when living at home, or needing help from a parent is the only choice. I’ve leaned on my parents plenty. But how do I raise my boys to value responsibility?

I’ve heard it said, from parent to child, “Do as I say, not as I do”. I verbalize how I want my boys to act. “Do your homework,” “Be nice to your friends,” “Clean up your room,” “Eat your vegetables.” Each instruction, outwardly describing a behavior I want to instill in my child. Yet, I often wonder, is it my actions, not my words, that are being heard?

Maybe the secret to breaking the arms of my little Boomerangs is to look inward, not speak outward, and examine how closely aligned my actions are to my words. Do I take my work seriously? Am I nice to the people I meet? How healthy do I live my life? Maybe if I want my boys to be disciplined, healthy, and keep a clean room, I should demonstrate constraint, eat right and take care of my belongings. Want a child to be good with money? Ask yourself, “How good am I with dollars and cents?” Want a child to listen, do less talking. Want a child less dependent on you, become less dependent on others. (See: Parents, Grand) Sure, it’s possible to live a life out of balance, only to see your own child choose a life in contrast to your own, but more often than not, it won’t happen.

The most important attribute I can demonstrate is the desire to become better and grow. I am not a not perfect parent, perfect son, perfect boss, but I can be better. Working on ourselves might be this life’s greatest challenge. Yet, it’s a choice, and it’s a behavior that will be learned by my children, and that’s a great thing. Because if I do nothing else but demonstrate a life-long lust to making myself a better person, and my sons only learn that one teaching, how can I fault myself for who they become?

1996 was a great summer, living in that one-bedroom apartment in West Wichita, working nights at Chili’s, and drinking on a fake ID. I aced that English 101 class and left for college later that summer, never to return. I have my parents to thank for raising this one-armed boomerang. And to my sons Henry, Charlie & Max…I don’t care what your presentation looks like, I’m not renting you an apartment for graduation!

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Charlie Goes Skylander Hunting

I didn’t play many video games growing up. I spent my days outside; throwing balls against the house and breaking windows. My next door neighbor, Petey, had all the games. After school, I’d sometimes head over to his house and watch him play his Nintendo. Usually, after a few games, I’d get bored and head back outside. It’s hard to say whether my sons will become “gamers”, like Petey or “outsiders” like me. We own a Wii and the boys have recently become interested in a game called Skylanders. They are hot and cold on the game, it usually depends on the day and whether their friends are outside. But I do know this…my kids LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to watch videos on the Ipad. In particular, they love to watch toy videos.

When I was growing up, we had the JCPenny catalog. Every month or so we’d get this inch-thick book in the mail and I’d go through the toy pages, line by line, soaking up all the new toys and dreaming. I loved imagining that I could only have one toy on each page. I would go back and forth, in my mind, trying to decide which of the Star Wars, Transformers or Thundercat figurines I wanted for Christmas. So I understand my sons infatuation with the YouTube toy videos, it’s like the JCPenny catalog on steroids.

In particular, my boys love a video series called EvanTubeHD. Evan is a 7-year-old boy who does toy reviews of all the latest games. If you’ve got small children, it’s worth a look. You can see it here. The series is very PG and Evan’s father plays a prominate role in the series. My boys can sit down and watch EvanTubeHD for hours. And they are constantly asking me to make a video of them, just like “EvanTubeHD”.

Fast forward to Labor Day, 2013. Charlie, my 4-year-old, has been on a year-long potty training escapade. (Read about how it all started here). Charlie tends to go a few days without accidents, then he’ll “mail it in” for a day and have several potty-in-the-pants moments. In an effort to get Charlie focused, we decided to create a “Potty Challenge”. If Charlie could go seven days without an accident, I’d take him shopping for a new Skylander. As an added bonus, I told him I’d take a video of him and put it on YouTube. It took Charlie some time, but he finally made it seven days without incident. What follows is our first CharlieTubeHD video. Enjoy!

Le Petit Problème

“Daddy?”

“What, Charlie?”

“I need to go potty.”

“Of course you do…we’re late for the doctor, so you’re gonna just have to hold it.”

“But I can’t…I need to go now!”

“We can’t stop, Charlie, just hold it”

“DADDY!, PLEASE!”

The stoplight is red.  My steering wheel knuckles are white. Many miles away and very few minutes to spare lies the doctor’s office.  We had intended to leave 15 minutes earlier, but my wife was late.  Not that it would have mattered.  I was not ready.  Work piling up. Deadlines missed.  Soccer practices, baby’s not sleeping, family in town, medicine not adminstered, work to be completed, laundry to be folded, quality time to be scheduled, red lights staying red and red and red and red…

“Daddy…….Daddy……Daddy?”

“CHARLIE, JUST HOLD IT, GODDAMN IT!”

The intesnity of the scream startled even myself as I thought…”I supose I could have handled that better.”

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Petit Mal Seizures

A few weeks back, my wife told me that she  had begun to see Charlie, my four-year-old son, “space-off” from time to time and she asked if we should be concerned.  Shortly there-after, I saw one of these “space-off” moments for myself.  Basically, Charlie was mid-sentence at the dinner table, stopped, stared off into space for a few seconds, and then was back to normal.  At first, I didn’t think much of it and told Lindsey not to worry.  Charlie has a habit of getting ahead of himself, and I felt this was just an example of his brain working a little “over-time” to catch up with his thoughts.

Of course, these moments did not stop, and Lindsey continued to express concern to me, but since I wasn’t seeing them, I didn’t think much of it.  On Friday (6/28/13) afternoon, I was home from work early and Charlie finally had one of these moments right in front me…Once again, he was mid-sentence, broke it off, (“Daddy, Daddy, for my birthday, can we……………..”) but this time, it lasted for a while, maybe 10-12 seconds.  I knew right then what my wife new six weeks ago…this wasn’t good or normal.

Being the 21st century parents that we are, we Googled it.  The internet in these instances can be both a blessing and curse.  Our minds were filled with all types of crazy scenarios, but the diagnosis that we kept coming back to was a type of epilepsy called “Absence Seizures” (Also known as Petit Mal Seizures).  We called the doctor and they asked us to come in the next day (a Saturday).

Time slowed down, Saturday arrived.  Lindsey and I arranged for a sitter to watch Henry & Max, while Charlie, her and I went to see our pediatrician.  After a brief consultation he told us an EEG was needed and that we would have one scheduled on Monday.  And that was that.

The weekend was tough.  We were filled with all sorts of emotions and feelings.  As an added bonus, Charlie began to complain about a ringing in his ear, telling me at

Charlie 1

one point, “Daddy, my ears don’t work.”  I think Lindsey & I both wanted to learn more, but staying off The Google was a difficult, yet necessary task.  Spending too much time there, when you don’t know the diagnosis, can send you into madness.

Monday arrived and the doctor called first thing in the morning.  The EEG had been scheduled for 9am on Wednesday. And that was that.

The instructions were to keep Charlie up about an hour later the night before and try to wake him up an hour early.  Lindsey and decided that I would take Charlie to the exam while Lindsey stayed home with the other two kids.

I was up early on Wednesday and had Charlie up by 6. We left for the exam around 7.  The morning was unusually mild (mid 60’s) and Charlie needed a sweatshirt to keep warm.  The hardest part was keeping him awake in the car.  We headed to the hospital (about 40 min drive) and found a breakfast place close by.

After a grilled cheese breakfast (I might be Father of the Year), I realized that the appointment was still 30 minutes away.  I found a park close to the hospital and Charlie had a blast exploring the new surroundings.

Charlie 2

The time had finally come to head to the hospital.  The waiting room was filled with toys, kids, and stressed parents.  The eyes in that room is scene I will never forget.  So much sadness.

The wait was not long and soon we were being led to the examination room.

The EEG lasted about an hour and included Charlie sitting on my lap as the nurse (Roslynn) placed about 15 nodes on his head.  Charlie watched a show (“Good Luck Charlie”, you can’t make this stuff up!) on the Disney channel as the lights were dimmed.  The nurse came in and out a few times and Charlie did great.

After the exam, a gentleman named Brad came in, and nervously said, “Hi, Mr. Younger.  We don’t usually do this, but based on the exam results, we thought we should discuss the results with you immediately”.   Charlie, still on my lap, felt like 100lbs and the white walls of the exam room seemed to close in on me…time slowed down and I feared the worst.

Charlie 4

Brad went onto to tell me that since it was the day before the Holiday (July 3rd), and that results of the EEG had shown clear indications of activity, he had called our pediatrician and gotten the OK to share the results with us today.  Further, he informed us that the neurologist had been watching the results in real time in his office and was also consulted.  He had clearly seen indications of “Absence Seizures”, and felt we should know ASAP. 

My heart was racing, but the results were both what we expected and actually were the best results we could hear.  You can learn more about Absence Seizures here: http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/aboutepilepsy/seizures/genconvulsive/absenceseizures/Charlie 5

You can also watch a pretty good video of an example of these seizures here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xE6N0Da8Ce0

Basically, Charlie experiences short seizures many times a day (50-150).  The nurse told me she stopped counting during the exam, but probably had five or six seizures during the thirty minute EEG. They last anywhere between 2-30 seconds and don’t cause any harm to Charlie.  The biggest concern is that he might fall on the stairs or on the playground.  Also, we must watch him in the water, as a brief loss of consciousness may cause issues.

It was a long morning and the sleep deprivation was more than Charlie could handle as he passed out in the car on the way home.

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“Honey, it’s OK, we’re not that late”  My wife said as she gently touched my arm.

I took a deep breath and the stop light finally turned green. 

“Charlie, there’s a QuickTrip up ahead, how about we stop there and you can go potty, sound good?

“Yes…but hurry, I really have to go.”

“Ok, I’ll hurry.  How about this, you look out the window and as soon as you see the QuickTrip sign, yell as loud as you can, just like Daddy did, OK?”

“Ok, Daddy.”

I gassed the Volkswagen Minvan and we raced ahead.

“Do you see the sign?” I asked.

“No.” Charlie quietly replied.

I went faster and we got closer.  I saw the sign in the distance and asked again, “Charlie do you see it now?”

“No.”

I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw Charlie looking intently out the window, holding himself with both hands, while his legs jiggled like butterly wings.  I peered out and saw the QT sign fast approaching.  Pleading now, I asked “Charlie, do you see the sign?”

“No”

Again, I gassed the van, our heads bumped against the headrests, the gas station was close now…”Charle, don’t you see it!”

“Daddy, do you hear me yelling?” Charlie asked.

Puzzled, I responded, “No”.

“Then I can’t see the sign”.

My wife and I smiled as I finally made the turn into the Quicktrip parking lot.  Charlie hopped out and we were off and running to the potty, crisis averted.

A little while later, we were at the doctor’s office (only a couple of minutes late) for Charlie’s check up.  It’s now been 5 weeks since the EEG.  He’s been on medincine and the seizures have almost completly gone away.  The doctor gave Charlie a great report and the prognosis is very good.  The bottom line is that he should grow out of these in a few years time and it does not appear to be turning into anything greater.  This is a small problem and we are truly blessed that it isn’t something more serious.  Even the ringing in his ears has stopped and we’ve got our Charlie back.

These type of events teach you many things.  Most notably, I must remember that all the small problems don’t matter.  What does matter is your kids and your family. Charlie’s clarity of thought refreshes me.  We can and should refuse to listen to the small stresses in this world.  Deadlines are usually self imposed.  The laundry always get done, the red light always turns green.  Being a few minutes late will not impact the outcome.  When the world is pestering us like an overbearing father racing a white mini van towards a Qicktrip, let’s say, “Do you hear me yelling?  No?  Then I can’t see your stresses”.

Thanks for your thoughts, prayers and support.  Now, let’s go Enjoy The Day!

Confessions of a Rookie Father

Believe or not, I was a pretty good little league baseball player. If there was better 8 year-old fielding shortstop in West Wichita, circa 1986, I’d like to meet him…of course, history has a way of allowing us to remember things the way we want, no sense in getting caught up in facts. As I got older, I wouldn’t say my skills diminished as much as my body stopped growing, and the other kids got better…much better. My playing time decreased, rapidly, and I looked to find someone to blame.  In my case, it was easiest to blame my father.  In my mind, he had put pressure on me to perform…too much pressure.  So I did the unthinkable…I asked my father to stop attending my games.  He stopped showing up and my playing time continued to drop, until finally, I got cut from the team. Although my Dad wasn’t to blame for my benching’s, I was sure I wouldn’t put pressure on my kids when I became a father of my own.

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Four weeks shy of his sixth birthday, my oldest son, Henry was about to start in goal for the first time in a competitive soccer game. Turns out Henry acquired some of his ‘Ol Man’s hand eye coordination and has quickly showed a real gift for the little round ball.  This year, my wife and I decided to enroll Henry into a competitive league in our area, complete with yelling coaches, score being kept, and parents that really, really care. So it was, on this particular Saturday, that Henry found himself, between the pipes, with all of us parents looking on. As the whistle blew to signal the start of the game, I was overcome with a weird sensation. As the ball rocked and rolled around the field, bouncing like a pinball amongst the clump of boys, my heart began to race. For reasons I don’t entirely understand, I found myself beginning to yell…”BE READY, HENRY!”. He didn’t look ready…, but why is he looking at me now? “WATCH THE GAME, NOT ME!”…what’s he doing?…he’s not even looking at the ball…oh no the ball…it’s coming right at ’em…I was sure my  heart was going to explode.

As if it had been blown out of a cannon, the ball broke away from the pack and was now heading right towards my oldest.  There was Henry, like a deer frozen in a head light,  as the opposing forward approached and with one swift kick, as if in slow motion…the ball went right through Henry’s legs.

My first thought was, why are all these people screaming? Then I remembered…all those parents care. The crowd was simultaneously groaning and cheering. When, from the corner of my eye, she turned. She had been sitting there since before the game, making small talk with me…

“…where do you live? Oh really? My son goes to the same school, what teacher? Oh that’s great, us too.  Don’t you just love this soccer team?…”

As my ears continued to ring from the groaning cheers, my emotions began to lava over…she turned and muttered,  in the condescending voice only a mother can deliver…”It’s OK, I’m sure he’ll get the hang of it.”

My mind erupted with emotion:

“Get the hang of it? Get the hang of it? Do you know who the hell my son is! Ya, the one that scored the winning goal last week, the only one that can kick a forward ball with any real force! Is that your son sitting in the dirt, eating grass? Ya, thought so…Henry will “get the hang of it” as soon as your son “gets the hang of putting his shin guards on right!”

Luckily, that was my internal voice…

The external voice was saying something like “That’s OK, Henry. You’ll get’em next time.”

It wasn’t till later that my emotions for the game subsided enough for me to fully reflect. As I drove home, I was filled with questions, most notably, had I become my father? Was I becoming the very type of pressuring parenting I never intended to be? The feelings I had were real, but what was I feeling exactly? Why did I care, in the heat of that moment, so much about my son’s performance? My initial thought was something along the lines of “He has so much potential, and I just want to see him compete like he does in the backyard with his friends, after all, I’ve seen him stop those kind of shots in his sleep”…but that would be false parental rationalization on my part. The truth is, I want him to do well for me.  We, as parents, do sometimes live vicariously through our children, and if we are not careful, we can want for our children what we really want for ourselves.  It occurred to me that all I want for my kids is for them to be happy…and that happiness has nothing to do with soccer or sports.

As I pulled into my driveway, I began to realize that although I have three boys, I’m a rookie when it comes to my oldest.  Every new experience for him, is a new experience for me.  No matter how many diapers I’ve changed or boys I’ve potty-trained, I’ll never be fully prepared for Henry’s new experiences…and that will last his lifetime.  I shouldn’t be concerned that I felt that way for his first competitive game as goalie…only concerned if I don’t change my thought process.  Because like any good rookie, I must learn from mistakes, or risk being put on the bench by a son who thinks his father is to blame.

Clifford The Big Red Dog – A Statistical Analysis

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As a father in search of his DaddyBalance, I ask myself many questions. Many can’t be answered and that can become overwhelming. There are medical questions like “What is that bump on his head? Is it serious? Should I call the doctor?” There are social questions like “Does he play well with others at school? Does he misbehave like this when I’m not around?”  Even political questions like “Which of these two candidates give my family the best chance for continued success? Which candidate will implement policies that are best for my boys?”  To be honest, I don’t consider myself qualified to answer many of the questions that pop in my head, so let’s stick with one that I am qualified to answer:

“How much do you think it costs to care for Clifford the Big Red Dog?”

If you are new to parenting small children, or have retired from that game many years ago, you may not be aware of the three-storied Clifford and his child owner Emily Elizabeth.  But if you are aware, I’m sure you’ve asked yourself that question numerous times…right? No, really, please tell me that you’ve asked yourself that question…maybe once? No? Well, let’s move on…

As the story goes, Mary Elizabeth sets out to buy a puppy and chooses the runt of the litter, which happens to be a red Labrador. Once she brings it home, it begins to eat them out of house and home, becoming larger and larger until he’s outgrown the apartment, forcing Mary Elizabeth and her family to leave the city for the spacious island life off the coast. Let’s start here: That takes some real parenting dedication to uproot your family and job for a dog. Also, wouldn’t you think about selling him at this point? I mean you have a red dinosaur-size dog in your possession, at best, Purina wants it for science, at worst a traveling freak show would pay high dollar for this thing…sell then and you probably break even, hold onto him and your about to make a very sizable investment, how large? Let me answer that for you…Read on, my friends, read on:

Food

Can you imagine feeding that animal?  This would be one of your larger line items when assessing the cost of ownership. When you watch the opening credits of Clifford, it’s easy to see that he’s grown to become a 3 story behemoth.  According to http://www.goldenretrieverforum.com, the average lab grows to be about two feet, meaning that Clifford is approximately 15 times the size of the regular dog (30’/2′). According to that same site, labs tend to eat 4 cups of food a day, once again multiplying this by 15, that’s 60 cups a food a day. Considering you can get 208 cups of food out a 52 lb. bag, it would take about 2 bags to feed Clifford for one week, or about 104 bags a year.  At $25/bag, that’s about $2500.  Let’s not forget treats, after all, Clifford spends most of his day saving the people of his island from fires and floods.  Let’s assume 30 boxes of Kibble n Bits for the Big Guy, which will run us another $500.  Grand total for food?  $3,500/year.

Water

Imagine filling up your child’s backyard pool…2-3 times…everyday! That’s a lot of water. I watered my grass a bit this summer and filled up the pool a few times and saw my bill skyrocket by over $100/month. I’m willing to be conservative here and say that Clifford would increase your water bill by $300/month. Who knows, maybe you could move to place that has a well or is close to a lake, but for the sake of this projected budget, let’s assume we don’t.

Housing

Ol’ Cliffdog’s not sleeping at the end of your bed.  If you’re an avid watcher of the show, you’ll know that Clifford lives in a warehouse-like dog house. It looks pretty cool, actually, for a dog-warehouse.   New construction on a place like that, with heating and cooling, could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but we’ll assume $100,000. Further, let’s assume you believe Clifford will live for 15 years and you take out a 15 year loan, at a very competitive 4.35%, your mortgage, including estimated tax and insurance would come to $878/month.  Congrats, you now have two mortgages.

Leashes, Collars & Toys

I checked out this site, to get an idea of various dog ownership costs.  It’s been a while since I had a dog…Gracie was her name, lab/chow mix …she was nice…scared of her own shadow, shed all over the place, couldn’t sit down in a car, but nice none-the-less.  She bit my oldest son, twice, so now she’s in doggy heaven.  Look, I pretty much took the numbers from that site and multiplied it by 15…we don’t have all day here people, it’s a cartoon.

Grooming

A shampoo & rinse at my local Petsmart runs $25-$50.  If we multiplied that by 15, it puts us at $375-$750.  How many times does Clifford need washed?  Every six weeks?  Every few months?  Who knows, but I assumed $3,500 for the year.

Medical  

Type of Expense Approximately Amount/Yearly
Food and Treats $3,000
Water $2,500
Mortgage on Dog House w/ 1% Tax $10,300
Toys $1,000
Leashes and Collars $375
Grooming $3,500
Routine Veterinary Care $3,500
Preventive Medications and Supplements $500
Yearly Total $24,675
Average Monthly Cost of Owning a Dog $2,014
15 Year Cost $370,125

The costs to medically care for a dog the size of Clifford could be off the charts.  According to the site referenced above, you should budget $200-$300 year, which would put us in the $2,000 range, but quite frankly, that seems low, so I made up a number and we’ll go with $3,500.  Throw in another $500 for preventive care and supplements and I’m beginning to wonder if Obamacare covers Big Red Dogs.

So, how much does it cost to care for Clifford The Big Red Dog?  About 2 G’s a month, $24,000 a year, or $370,000 for a 15 year life span…for that kind of money, he should be able to talk…oh, he does?  Maybe we should call that freak show!  The lesson here?  Don’t let your child buy a red dog…ever.

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As a father in search of his DaddyBalance, I ask myself many questions.  There are, of course, real questions that need my attention.  Questions like, “which school should Henry attend?” “Is Charlie’s speech OK for a three-year old?”…”Is that O.J. or pee on the floor?”

Other questions enter my mind, or better yet, are sent there from others.  But part of finding balance is understanding which ones stay and which one’s go.  A father, a mother, a parent of any kind, could, if they weren’t careful, spend a lot of negative time and energy debating questions of perceived importance.  They could double down on that mistake by debating those questions with information based on assumptions.  Assumptions of fiscal cliffs and balanced budgets…assumptions of future job growth and unemployment…assumptions of tax rates and “One-Percents”, but debating at the top of my lungs those items based on assumptions & assumptions only, seems to be silly to me…as a silly as a statistical analysis of a cartoon dog.

Photo Credit

Parenting in the Facebook Era

Bullies & Cliques: Two interpersonal dynamics that, unfortunately, don’t out-grow adolescence. You know Noah who makes fun of everyone on the playground? Well, he grows up to be Noah in accounting, the guy that constantly tears you down during staff meetings.  How about the cool girls in school, the one’s with latest fashions & trends, standing in a crowd, pointing at you…giggling.  Well, that’s the same crew that gathers in the office lobby and continues to giggle at you as they pile into the elevator for lunch.  Unfortunately, maturity is not a rite of passage experienced by all…nor is self-esteem a requisite for adulthood.

Nothing personifies this today quite like Facebook. As fathers & mothers of young children, we are sandwiched between our parents, who often find the technology to be overwhelming, yet are engaged by their 36 friends and pictures of the grandchildren. On the other side rests those young kids who’ve grown up in a Facebook world. Let’s just say I’m happy FB wasn’t around for my college road trips, European travels, and previously unknown high school parties at my parents’ house.

“Wow, there was a Jim Beam bottle in the mailbox…really? Uh, not sure where that came from Mom, got go to school, see ya!”

(Note to the future Me: Don’t leave my youngest alone on Prom Weekend)

No, our Facebook challenges are more difficult, more cerebral. Today, our generation tends to do 1 of 4 things on Facebook:

1. Play Games. Speaking of which, do you need something to do? I’ve got 3 things that come to mind if you’re looking for some productive use of your time…there names are Henry, Charlie & Max.
2. Re-post somewhat humorous/inspirational pictures that have you feeling like you’ve entered an online version of an Oprah show.
3. Expound on their political views. Freedom of speech has it downsides.
4. Post picture/stories about their kids.

I’ve been, to varying degrees, guilty of all of them…But it’s the fourth that creates issues for parents today. As we scroll through our timeline, it can be difficult to understand that we are seeing the parenting peaks of our friends, not the collection of one super-human, all-encompassing parent.  And because we tend not  to post our parenting valleys, we can get the sense that everyone you know has got this parenting thing figured out while your three kids are running around like a band of vigilantes.

“Henry, stop swinging your brother, he’s 7 weeks old and you’re gonna make him throw up…Charlie get away from the door, and put some pants on…Ohhh, see, he threw up all over his new shirt…GET IN TIMEOUT, NOW!…”

We don’t see FB updates like “Spanked the hell out of my kid in public today” or “went ahead and mailed it in and put my 3-year-old in front of the TV for 3 hours while I ate like dog shit”.

No, instead, we post items that highlight our children’s world, mostly so that people in our circle can be kept abreast of the comings and goings of our lives…yet our posts can seem arrogant, superficial,  cliquish…

The result can be devastating. So much so that a few people I know and respect have gotten off FB altogether. I can respect that. Often times the best way to overcome negative energy is to move away from it.

I tend to think the upside of connecting and sharing out-weighs the negative thought processes that enters my head. Besides, if we remember that these postings represent parenting peaks, then we should be truly happy for our loved ones & friends.  We shouldn’t take it as an indication of our inability to parent. Here’s my “Am I Good Parent?” test:

1. Do I love my kids? Check
2. Do I wake up every morning, and try to do my best in balancing the needs of my kids, with the needs of my wife and myself? Check

Everything else is secondary.

So, next time you jump on Facebook, after sifting through the Obama/Romney discourse that enlightens everyone…and you see that your neighbor went to school to have lunch with their kids, or took the day off to take’em to the zoo, or whatever it is that we do to make a difference in our children’s lives, don’t take it personal, don’t feel inadequate.  Ask yourself the two test questions above.  If you can answer yes to both, you’re all right in my book…

….now, I think I’ll go post this on Facebook.

Lessons To My Sons – Back To School Edition

Lessons To My Sons – Back To School Edition

On Values.

Values should guide your life.  Write them down, early and often.  Review them regularly and recognize that values evolve as your life & priorities change.  When you run up against difficult decisions, and you will face many, use them to chart your course.   Share your values with the people you love, as they will help hold you accountable.  My values are as follows:  Family, Achievement, Integrity, Health & Tranquilty.

On Love.

Love will confuse you, force you into mistakes, yet make you whole.  Understand that love is muscle, one that needs exercise and maturity to reach it’s fullest potential. I Love your mother and I love each of you, but my love does not end today, I must continue to practice, or the muscle develops atrophy.

On Politics.

Understand that we are Americans first, Republican & Democrat second.  Vote when you are able, and notice that your political opinions are worthless if you don’t.  Recognize that politics is a game, a negotiation, and that the answer tends to find itself in the middle.  Be careful when sharing your politics, as this subject will stoke emotions in others unlike any you’ve seen.

On Leadership.

Be a leader.  Understand that leadership comes in many functions & forms, and has little to do with your ability to speak or yell.  Your leadership will be judged by the number of listeners, whether you speak often or seldom.  Leadership almost always comes from the front, so understand that your actions will often be your loudest words & listening will be your greatest leadership gift.

On Passion.

Be passionate.  Take care of what you do.  Understand that your task, your work, your success will be enhanced when you are passionate about the project.  Have passion for others.  Success without sharing is failure.  Too much is given, much is expected, and I and your mother will give you plenty.

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