Tag Archives: fathers

Mother’s Day Without Mom

Yesterday morning, my stepsons woke up early (by 10 minutes) and I took the early shift with the puppies so my wife could sleep in.

The boys whipped up eggs, bacon and toast.  I made her favorite morning beverage…my pour over coffee with a splash of heavy cream.

Photo Credit: Aes D via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Aes D via Compfight cc

My son watched all the activity.

My stepsons loaded up the TV tray and, along with my son, brought breakfast in bed to my wife.

I closely watched my son during the joyous interaction between the boys and their mom.  His face betrayed his sadness as he watched kids with their mom, knowing his was over 1,700 miles away.

He quietly slipped out of the room and I followed.

As I held on to him, I asked if watching his stepbrothers serve their mom breakfast in bed made him sad.

“A little.”

I’m no expert, but he may have underestimated.

I hugged him, affirmed how he felt, and reminded him he could celebrate Mother’s Day on Father’s Day since it falls during his summer visitation with his mom.

People say kids are resilient.  Yes, divorce hurts, but they adapt and adjust.

I partially agree.

My son (and even my stepsons) demonstrate great resilience, but the sense of loss never completely disappears.

I am reminded about my sense of loss when my son misses milestones with me and must remember he has those same feelings about his mom.  The gift I can give him on Mother’s Day is the acknowledgment of his hurt and the assurance he is loved…by both of us.

How do your kids react when they miss a significant holiday or event with their mom?

Helping Your Kids Find Hobbies

My son just wrapped up his rugby season and does not plan to play spring baseball.  On one hand, I do not have to drive him to practice and we get our Saturday mornings back for a few months.

Unfortunately, when asked what he wants to do in the coming months, he can only come up with activities requiring either constant parental supervision or being over 18 years old.

A partial list of things he seriously would like to do (as an 11-year-old):

  • Bike riding on highway access roads
  • Motorcross
  • Welding


Photo Credit: parkerwelds via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: parkerwelds via Compfight cc

I explained his choices sounded interesting, but we not activities he could do without an adult.  Therefore, he could begin any of those as a hobby.

Then he said a word we all said as kids ourselves, but we want to scream when our own kids say it: “But everything else is boring!”

When our kids say they are bored we come up with the usual responses like, “if I told my mom and dad I was bored, they made me do chores” or “only boring people are bored.”  Neither do us or our kids much good.

So, it was time to redirect and come up with some other ideas.  However, nothing I mentioned sounded the least bit interesting to him.  Music lessons, acting, another sport, reading, collecting something – nothing caught his attention.

I have asked him to write down a list of all the things he finds interesting and from there, pick a few subjects we could turn into a hobby.  When i told him TV and Xbox could not appear on his list, he did seem a bit sad, but at least he knows he can create a list of his interests and not mine.

I told him to be as crazy and creative as he could.  Maybe welding stays on his list, but we can discover some way to work with metal as a beginner…not an expert.  His list will give us a chance to learn what kind of options are out there and force us to get creative as we find an activity for him.  And it will give us a chance to communicate and spend time together.

As of today he has not picked a new hobby, but I am holding out hope.  And searching Craigslist for used welding equipment.

What kinds of hobbies do your kids do?  What is the most unique hobby you or your kids have?

Knowing When To Say No

This past Saturday, our family got two puppies.  Yes, two.

We blended families almost exactly one year ago when my wife and I got married.  My son and I had not had a dog since my divorce in 2010…and I had not had a dog the year prior during our separation.  My wife and her boys lost their dog just over two years ago.

All of us have been talking about getting a puppy/dog for some time.  Each with their own opinions about breed and age.  My wife and I became the final arbiters.

Photo by author

Photo by author

We ended up with two puppies who turn nine-weeks-old today.  We picked them up from their breeder on Saturday and have had flashbacks to when we each brought our own boys back from the hospital…and when we were in the throes of potty training.

My wife and I excitedly heap words of praise on these little creatures for peeing and pooping in the yard.  We have even used a little bit of baby talk.  Hard to resist doing it with these adorable pups.

Back in my single dad days, my son badly wanted a dog.  We had a landlord who allowed it, but something told me to resist.  Something told me it was too much to bite off.

I wanted to say “yes” to my son, but disappointed him over and over with “no”.

I instinctively knew adding the stress of integrating a new family member into the home was more than I could handle.  So, we waited and waited.  It took blending families and waiting nearly a year to welcome in our two new kids.

Sorrow and guilt following a painful divorce or death can overtake our rational thought, especially when our kids beg for something.  Something so simple as a little dog.

That “something” can overwhelm an already stressful situation.

You may not have a kid asking for a puppy, but certainly you have decisions to make which could result in unnecessary or overwhelming stress to an already difficult situation.

Take a moment to consider the cost in time and money.  Take a moment to determine if you have a teachable moment for your kids as you tell them they have to wait.  Take a moment to reflect if you even have the strength to give in to a request, no matter how badly you want to give your kids what they innocently want.

Take it from a guy who got up twice last night to literally let the dogs out.

What request from your kids do you regret fulfilling?

The Power Of A Thank You

Writing a post about thanks on Thanksgiving Week seems cliche, and most certainly is.  But, thank you for indulging me.

Yesterday’s sermon at church reminded me how much Jimmy Fallon has changed the nature of the thank you note, and it reminded me about the importance of remembering those who have been generous with their time, talents and resources.

Photo Credit: meri_rose via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: meri_rose via Compfight cc

After the divorce, I became a full-time dad while already filling the role of a full-time employee.  I was blessed with many friends who lent a hand or word of advice.  My family traveled to help me out when work took me out of town.  A friend gave generously when it came to helping me get my son to visit his mom in another state.

Think about your situation.  Who has helped you be the best dad you can be under difficult circumstances?  Who has watched your kid when she was ill and you had to go to work?

Make a list of those people.

Get a box of simple notecards.

Start writing.

You will make their day.

The Other Man In Your Kid’s Life

I felt my chest tighten as my son kept telling stories about his new stepdad.

A mixture of panic and jealousy flooded my mind and I desperately wanted to remind my son how much I love him and how much cooler I am.

But I sat, listened, and did my best to affirm the relationship with the other man in his life.

Intellectually, we all know not to create unnecessary strife and tension between the two residences…especially when we know, as custodial parents, our kids will spend the majority of time with us.  But, man it is hard to do.

So what are some of my lessons learned?

  • Don’t freak out if stepdad’s job is “cooler” than yours.  My son has recently been talking about following in the other guy’s footsteps.  Nothing hits you in the gut quite like that.  My son is 11, and (in addition to stepdad’s occupation) he still kind of wants to be a lumberjack, baker, or Navy SEAL.  The best course of action I have found is to begin to ask questions about each of the possible occupations and give him the opportunity to learn more and inform his eventual choice.
  • Don’t try to control the situation when your kids are not in your custody.  You may want to try to dictate how much time your kids will spend with the other guy (and in some cases…depending on your particular legal situation…you might actually have some control), but if your custody decree is anything like mine, your ex is the one determining what happens during her visitation time.  I know…easier said than done…but my stress levels have noticeably dropped since letting go of stressing over something I cannot affect.
  • You are the parent figure in your kids’ lives.  You likely have your kids the majority of the time and, therefore, have more influence over them.  The less time you spend thinking about what you do not control, the more time you can spend investing time and energy with your kids when you do have them.

Do your kids spend time with a stepdad or significant other at their mom’s home?  If so, what have you learned about having another man in their lives?  What has been most challenging for you?

FLASHBACK – One Big Mistake Single Dads Make

My son and I just got back from a long weekend of turkey hunting (turns out it was not a weekend of turkey killing, but awesome nonetheless).  More new content next week, but in honor of a full weekend great times and a few mistakes here and there, I thought I would pull this one up out of the archive.  


There was the time my son watched 2 straight hours of Ultimate Spider-Man while my fingers pecked away at emails and a memo for a client.

There was the time I forgot about his spelling test the next day and I did not review the words with him.

Stop and think about the times you wish you could hit the redo button with your kids.

Did any involve something you said to them?  Did you exact too harsh a punishment without explanation?  Let them get too close to danger?  Did you mIss an opportunity to have a teachable moment?

All of those might resonate with you (or will resonate one of these days), so what do we do about them?

Live, learn and let go.

We make a big mistake by worrying about our parental missteps and holding on to them.  We must recognize we will stumble and fall as parents, but we can pick ourselves up and learn from those failures.

Maybe the guilt associated with our kids not having a mom around most or all of the time eats at us and magnifies our mistakes.  Maybe our drive as providers kicks in to overdrive as single dads (along with hyper-criticism of our performance).

Whatever your mistakes, learn from them and become a better dad.  Kids can forgive and, based on what my son told me, understand we do not get it right every time.

What was a mistake you made and what was your lesson-learned?

Another Birthday…Already?? Making Memories Without Going Crazy

“When I was a kid…”

We have all said those words since having our own kids. My birthday parties in the 1970s and early 1980s seemed awesome – several friends came over to my house for some games and cake and ice cream. And I got presents – especially awesome in 1977 when the original Star Wars came out. The action figures made sweet gifts!

These parody action figures were created by Walt Crowley from Rancho Obi-Wan.

These parody action figures were created by Walt Crowley from Rancho Obi-Wan.

Now, many birthdays have become expensive two hour events at party factories – cycling in group after group for 75 minutes of play and 45 minutes of cardboard pizza, soda, cake and presents. All for a mere $300.


Some of you may have pockets full of Benjamins, but most of us try to watch our money closely.

So, how do we make awesome birthdays without destroying the budget and spending another two-hour block at the bounce house gymnasium?

1 – Ask your kid for two or three options.  You never know what they will come up with as options, and you may be pleasantly surprised they want a simple swim/video game/sleepover party at your home.  Granted, those can be exhausting, but make great memories.

2 – Budget for it…even if it is at a party factory.  No matter what, build birthday parties and gifts into your personal budget.  If you do not have a personal budget, set a goal to create one.  Little things at parties can become quite expensive…one time I tried to make fancy gift bags for 15 kids and just about went broke buying cheap plastic crap.

3 – Come up with a DIY party at home.  So, pretend your kid does not come up with any great or realistic ideas.  Make up your own themed party.  For boys – nothing beats water balloon and shaving cream fights in the back yard (or the yard of a good friend or relative).  For girls – buy some cake mix and have them do cupcake decorations and then rent a karaoke machine.  This process also helps you learn more about your kid’s interests.

4 – Plan a one-on-one event.  One year my son kept asking me to take him fishing.  So, I surprised him with a fishing trip and told him it would replace his 8th birthday party.  We have some incredible memories and he never missed having a party – instead we both got some amazing quality time and some great fish stories to tell.  This could end up costing some money, so do not forget to budget for it.

This year, we celebrated my son’s 11th birthday with family in the mountains and had a small gathering the following weekend with a couple of his buddies.  Again, we shared many memories from both events and managed to keep spending under control.

What unique spin on the usual birthday party do you want to try this year?

Do You Know How Much Your Kid Hurts?

Few people can make you laugh and think as much as Jon Acuff.

I have seen Jon speak live twice (once at Donald Miller’s Storyline conference and once at the ICON Conference), and both times I found myself writing down some hysterical lines and some incredible wisdom.

A lame photo the author took of Jon Acuff on stage at the ICON Conference

A lame photo the author took of Jon Acuff on stage at the ICON Conference

At the ICON Conference, he asked the adult crowd if they had celebrated the gift of not being a teen with social media.  He went on to explain he had shaved a stripe in his eyebrow to look more like Vanilla Ice when he was in high school.

Not long after, he reminded the audience empathy was not just understanding what someone needs, but acting on it.

Last week, Jon wrote a blog post and it took my breath away.  You can read it now or after you finish this short post, but do read it.  Especially if you have primary custody of your kids.

Photo Credit: ashallowtown via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ashallowtown via Compfight cc

My son lives with me between 41 and 43 weeks of the year.  That means he lives away from his mom the same number of weeks.

When I read Jon’s post, I first wondered if he sat next to my son this summer and got the age wrong or altered it to protect privacy.

Then I wondered if my son cries on his flights between our two homes.  Next, I wondered if I showed him either empathy or sympathy for the pain he endures being split between two parents he loves.

He and I have a solid relationship, but I could always do more to make sure he knows I love him and do not want him to ever feel badly about missing his mom or wanting to be with her.

Jon spoke the truth – divorce causes extraordinary pain, and as dads we need the reminder…especially when we have custody.