Tag Archives: dad

You Can Pick Your Nose And You Can Pick Your Friends

My son does not have problems making friends.  He can quickly adapt to new social settings and engage with kids of various ages with relative ease.

He falls into the “extrovert” category.

So, my challenge as a parent is to help him navigate his relationships and focus on those which are the most positive and do not lead to trouble.  And in his last “pre-teen” year, the importance of helping him exercise judgement in this arena becomes even more critical as his independence increases.

Photo Credit: HA! Designs - Artbyheather Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: HA! Designs – Artbyheather Flickr via Compfight cc

Think about your kids and their friends.  Are there some friends who make your kids hyper and abandon good judgement?  Are there some friends who bring out your kids’ creativity?  Are there some friends who have shared brokenness at home and can be a reminder to your kids that they are not alone?

It seems a key to helping them internally process this (rather than simply lecturing them) is to help them know themselves and have a solid grasp of their identity.  I’ve used the line “your behavior is a reflection on me” a time or two, but I do not think it has the same impact as asking them how they view themselves, how they want others to view them, what kind of work ethic they want to develop, and how they treat adults and members of the opposite sex.

Then, in a completely agnostic way, ask them how they and others view specific friends.  Let them do their own processing and do not do it for them.  Do not correct them, just ask questions.

“How does Johnny treat the teachers and lunchroom monitors?”

“How does Jane act around her parents?  Does she talk back?”

“Does Sally play well on teams or does she distract others?”

At twelve, my son has a good sense of himself, but often comes into conflict with wanting to pal around with the “fun” crowd who draw him closer to the line than he knows he should go.  Those who regularly say the words he is not allowed to say at home.  Those who do not respect their parents, but are very funny and have the best jokes.

You and I have friends in many different categories.  We know the ones we need to limit and those who make us better people – knowledge derived from mistakes and experience.  We need to give our kids the tools and grounding in who they are/want to be early so they make fewer mistakes.

Does your kid have a good friend who both you and they know are not always the best influence?  How do you handle the situation?

Full-Time Dad Update

For everything there is a season, and this blog has entered a new one.

Photo Credit: kuddlyteddybear2004 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: kuddlyteddybear2004 via Compfight cc

Since my first post nearly two years ago, I have shared my experience as a full-time single dad, and you have journeyed with me all the way through re-marriage and blending a family.  What a journey it has been!

With some additional responsibilities on the personal and professional front, I have decided to try changing the frequency of my blog posts from weekly to monthly.  This, too, may be for a season.  We’ll see.

I want to thank each one of you who has consistently read this blog, who has encouraged me, who has commented and shared their experiences.  It has enriched my life and made me a better father.

And isn’t it all about becoming better dads?

In the meantime, do not hesitate to reach out to me at contact@ftdad.org with your comments, suggestions for new posts, and anything else you may want to share.

I look forward to hearing from you and to seeing you in a month or so.

Birthday Fail

Every few years (including the year he was born), my son’s birthday falls on Labor Day.  In Arizona, many families travel to escape the heat one last time before fall.  This year, several of my son’s friends left town for his birthday weekend.

Photo Credit: legaryphotography via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: legaryphotography via Compfight cc

Coupled with the fact he could not decide if he wanted to have a party or just have a few friends over, his actual birthday was less-than-exciting.  We ended up with family in town for much of the weekend, and my parents even came up on Sunday, brought cake, and we had a celebration with grandparents, his cousins (two boys my son just adores…one a year older and one a year younger), aunt and uncle, and a helium tank.

He was also able to play with a friend for most of the day of his birthday.  In all, he had fun.

But this was his last birthday before officially becoming a teenager.  The last year of innocence.

I am being dramatic…but you get the idea.

For next year, I have already decided how we will celebrate his 13th birthday.  It will be a father/son trip and will involve one of his favorite things…fishing.

I find I need to plan ahead and make decisions, or events will creep up and find me unprepared, or at least underprepared.

I would like to think his reaction to the lack of an official birthday gathering with friends was sincere.  He was not upset at all, but I suspect deep down he hoped for a party.

Let’s see if I can do better next year.

Have you ever felt like a failure in planning a party for your kids?  How did they react?

The Fine Line Between Anger And Fear

Bad things can happen quickly.

Three boys were playing in our pool – my son and two of his stepbrothers.  Splashing, laughing, and playing.  My son, not thinking, got out of the pool and dove right back in, headfirst, a few feet on the wrong side of where it drops off to the deep end.

Photo by author

Photo by author

I saw blood on his face when he came out of the pool, but could not see the injury.  He was shaken, but moving.  I quickly analyzed his condition:  made sure he did not have a concussion or a snapped neck.

I quietly thanked God he was alright.

Then my fear turned to anger.

“What where you thinking?  Why did you dive in where you shouldn’t have?  Don’t you know what could have happened to you?”

These were not words of comfort, but were a perfect combination of fear and anger.  Tears rolled down his face – partly from the pain of a one inch gash directly on the top of his head, and partly from the words he heard from me.

He called his mom on the way to getting the staples for his head and the CT scan to make sure the pain in his neck was nothing serious.  More tears flowed down his face as he told her what he had done, in spite of him knowing the rules.

I am grateful the CT scan came back normal and the wound on his head will heal right up.

But I am also glad he will wear a neck brace for 12 days until he is cleared by a neurosurgeon.  That he will have to tell the story of how he got his injury and is thankful he did not cause permanent damage or die.

What did I learn over these past few days?

  • Make every moment count.  You have no idea when life can take an unexpected turn.
  • It is OK (if not necessary) to show anger.  But it is necessary to provide context and explanation with the passage of time.  I have told my son, I will never get mad at him for telling me the truth and being honest even though there may be consequences.  But I have explained to him this was a different circumstance.  He was not telling me he tried smoking a cigarette, he demonstrated poor judgement and put himself into danger.  I do believe there is a difference between the two.
  • Being a dad comes with fear for your kids.  I know my son loves adventure and excitement, and I do not want to crush his spirit.  But I must redouble my efforts to teach him how to use common sense and self-control during fun and exciting activities.

I hope you never experience something like this with your kids.  I could have gone my entire life without the fear my son had been badly hurt or killed.  But, with this experience, I hope to both give him better guidance and make every moment count.

What experience have you had where fear quickly turned into anger?  What lessons did you learn?

Quotation Mark Parenting

My son and stepsons have heard me talk plenty.  I try to share life lessons and give good, wise instruction.  I even admit areas where I have made mistakes and regrets.

You may do the same thing with your kids.

You may also find your kids have the ability to tune you out at times.  Voices other than yours can become quite loud – friends, celebrities, random people on the Internet.

So, how can we as fathers give solid input to our kids without directly giving it?

All you need is a chalk-board, chalk and Google.

This week (our first week back to school) marks the beginning of the weekly (or semi-weekly, or daily) quote of the day.  Many of you may have already done this, but it is new for us.

lou-holtz-lou-holtz-do-right-do-your-best-treat-others-as-you-want-toLong story short, I picked a Lou Holtz quote for the first week – it has some extra meaning to my stepsons.  Coach Holtz said something i would like to tell all four boys, but coming from him it may have some additional impact.

If you were to look at the actual board in our home, it would have my crappy handwriting and no frills.  Just a simple message and a potential conversation starter.

I found this by picking a public figure, typing his name and the word “quotes” into Google, and letting it rip.  For the graphic in today’s post, I did the same search in Google Images.

You could simplify and write out or print out a quote and tape it to a bedroom door or mirror.

You could put it on a Post-It note in a lunchbox.

You could save it as the background image on their phone or tablet.

Just mix it up,

My hope is my son and stepsons will respect me and listen to my counsel.  But I also know they need a variety of messengers, and we can pick who some of those people speaking into their lives are and what they have to say.

Have you ever had a quote board in your home?  If so, which quote has elicited the greatest reaction from your kids?

Re-Entry Strategies After An Extended Visitation

My son returned after his annual 8-week visit with my ex this past week.  Watching him walk down the jet bridge, I could already tell he was taller and had gotten a healthy dose of sunshine.

I never quite know what to expect after such a long visit, but he greeted me with the usual smile and bear hug.

My boy was home.

After signing some papers for the airline, we were on our way.  He had his carryon suitcase and began telling stories of fishing and fun.

Over the years, we have had variations on the “re-entry” after a stay with his mom.  I suspect the same holds true for you.

NASA - NASA http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/artwork/entry_br.html http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/artwork/hires/entry.jpg atmosperic entry of Mars Exploration Rover (MER) aeroshell, artistic rendition

NASA – NASA http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/artwork/entry_br.html http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/artwork/hires/entry.jpg
atmosperic entry of Mars Exploration Rover (MER) aeroshell, artistic rendition

This time, my son declared he does not get to see his mom enough.  I told him I understood how he felt and reminded him he would be going back two more times this year…for fall break and for Christmas.

He thought a moment and smiled and said he was glad he would get to see her.  And as quickly as he raised the subject, he was on to the next.

Like years past, we have been able to take a short trip immediately upon his return.  Before I got remarried, we would typically go visit my family (including his two cousins – both boys one of whom is a year older and one a year younger).  This year, we went with the blended family to Disneyland and Universal Studios for my son’s first visit ever to either.

So far, the transition has gone smoothly and he has adapted well to the old surroundings, stepbrothers, puppies, and rules.  Here are some best guesses as to why it has gone relatively smoothly:

  • I have consistently reminded him to contact his mom.  While he needs to be reminded to call every once in a while, he also needs to know I believe it is important for him to maintain contact with her.  This helps him understand the importance of regular contact…not just visitations.
  • I do not ask 20 questions about his trip.  As much as i would like to know every detail of his summer and how things are going with his mom, I give him the freedom to share what he wants to share and only ask general questions.  When he wants to talk, I listen and ask normal follow up questions.  I have found letting him share his summer stories at his pace works much better than quizzing.
  • I try to keep everything normal.  Consistency and familiarity seem to work best for my son.  I suspect your kids would also respond well to coming home to normalcy.  A few years ago, my son came home to a new rental home when we were subject to a burglary/arson.  Trying to maintain normalcy when most of his toys, clothes and furniture were destroyed was a challenge and taught me the importance of routine and comfort in situations where things change.

What traditions or routines do you use when your kids return from an extended visitation with your ex?

FLASHBACK – “Ts” of Single Fatherhood – Thanks

Yesterday, my son returned from his summer visitation with my ex.  The plan is to resume with new content next week!

In the meantime, please do me two favors: 1) please forward a link to ftdad.org to any of your friends who you think would benefit, and 2) please send an email to contact@ftdad.org if you have any topic suggestions – I’m always anxious to hear from readers and get input.

I stood there in the climbing harness, unable to get comfortable despite the constant adjusting. The crisp mountain air felt great and almost made me forget the discomfort.

I looked up at the obstacle course at Flagstaff Extreme and honestly thought the wire lines did not look very high, at least compared to what I anticipated.

I dominated the instruction/demo course which sat a full four feet above the ground. Bring on the real deal.

Photo Credit: Kate Hedin via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Kate Hedin via Compfight cc

Lesson learned. Looking up at a wire or obstacle 25 feet from the ground could not compare with looking down at the ground from 25 feet. I had some serious puckering going on up there.

We all know the power of perspective. A slightly different angle. A differing opinion. The wisdom of an elder. A pair of glasses. Each can completely change what we see.

Take a moment to forget the cooking, the laundry, the bills, the toys on the ground, the crying, the dirty shoes, the glitter, the homework, the little league team, the Wiggles, and the Lego you just stepped on.

Take a moment to adjust your perspective and express thanks you can call yourself “dad”.

Tell your kids “thanks” for something they did no matter how small.

Incorporate “thanks” (or gratitude or gratefulness…whichever resonates with you) for fatherhood and your kids into your prayers, your conversations, and your thoughts – especially when chaos reigns.

When you have those “pucker” moments with your kids, just remember to be thankful you have the privilege of being a dad. It may help you be a better one. And I, for one, could use the help sometimes.

FLASHBACK – Sex, Drugs, Violence and Dirty Words

In one week, my son will return from his summer visitation with my ex.  For the next couple weeks, I will post some of my favorite posts and then resume with new content.

In the meantime, please do me two favors: 1) please forward a link to ftdad.org to any of your friends who you think would benefit, and 2) please send an email to contact@ftdad.org if you have any topic suggestions – I’m always anxious to hear from readers and get input.

Enjoy the end of summer…

My son and I sat down to watch a classic movie with a PG rating – Beetlejuice.  

Photo Credit: Muotoilla * via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Muotoilla * via Compfight cc

I had fond memories of the 1988 movie – the Tim Burtonesque feel, the comic genius of Michael Keaton, and the Banana Boat Song.  And it was not even a PG-13 film like Iron Man or The Avengers – both of which he saw and I had no problem with.

I had forgotten a few critical scenes, words, and concepts my son might not have been ready to take in.  I had forgotten a PG rating in the 1980s could be just this side of an R rating.  Watching it again, I wonder if Beetlejuice should have been rated PG-13.

I began talking with other dads about this.  There was the one who showed his son The Bad News Bears having forgotten about the amount of language and drinking in that PG film.

We have also talked about our tendency, especially with our boys, to afford more leniency with violence than we do sex and nudity.  How can we show them Braveheart and The Patriot because of the overarching story and message and turn our heads at the brutality, violence and blood?

I have another friend who will allow for a moderate level of violence in the media his son consumes, but draws the line when the story involves the mistreatment and disrespect of women.  But even those story lines can provide great opportunity for conversation about the consequences of being a jerk toward women.

So, what is the right answer?  Do we let the Motion Picture Association of America decide what our kids can watch based on their age and MPAA guidelines?  Do we say “no” to everything with adult content?  Do we shelter our kids as long as we can?

I do not have all the answers and, frankly, have quite a few questions.

Even if I censor the content at home, my son still goes to school, still visits friends (with older siblings), still rides in the car and sees billboards for local adult boutiques and Captain Morgan Rum.

I want to hear what you think, but here is my attempt to develop some boundaries:

  • Stay engaged in your kids’ lives and know what media they consume.  This seems like the first, logical step.  Ignorance is not bliss.
  • Educate yourself on the content they want to consume.  I routinely use sites like IMDBKids-In-Mind, and Common Sense Media to get reviews and recommendations about the content my son consumes.  He usually knows which films I will say “no” to, but often I need more information – especially if I have not seen it before and want a sense about what he will see.  Some of the sites even give you topics to discuss following the movie.
  • They probably know what you watch, so do not be surprised if they think the same content is OK for them.  In the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do category, our kids take cues from us, so if you do not want them watching horror movies, you may want to reconsider your Friday the 13th movie marathon.  They can see the “recently watched” shows on Netflix just like you can.
  • Engage in the discussion with your kids.   I remember watching a movie called Phantasm at a friend’s house when I was in late elementary or early junior high.  For whatever reason, I could barely go get the mail in broad daylight for several days after seeing it.  I was just waiting for the Tall Man to jump out from behind a tree or show up behind me when I looked in a mirror.  I have told my son about that experience, and it may have tempered his desire to watch a horror movie…for the time being.  Be honest about why you set boundaries on the movies they watch and let it be a conversation, not just a lecture.

What limits have you set on movie/TV content for your kids?  How do you approach the subject with them?