I’m Not Proud

July 18, 2010

Yesterday would not be one of my most impressive moments in front of my family. On our way to head out of the house for an all day yard sale, I twirled the car keys around my fingers. As we entered the elevator, the keys slipped off my finger and down the elevator shaft. The maintenance worker searched for an hour and couldn’t find them.

What was I not proud of? I swore in front of my wife and kids. I lost my cool over something that can naturally happen in life. I felt shame and guilt for not keeping the keys safe. I’m usually the logical one, the responsible one, and this time I left myself and my family down.

I spent the better part of the day searching around for a replacement key. I got one made, and tried to re-program it for my car on my own. It doesn’t work- and then I’ve been looking online for the possible reason why.

Come to find out, you can’t program the new key unless you put in the master key to replicate it. Problem is- I wouldn’t have had a new key made if I didn’t lose the old key. Sort of like an Abbott and Costello “who’s on first” routine, I’m not caught waiting for the elevator people to come to our complex on Monday to get the problem solved.

Tomorrow will be another day. I need to learn that when I’m faced with a series of problems, I can’t lose my cool. What does it really accomplish? I may be getting rid of a moment or two of frustration, but my kids and wife remember the day that their father and husband couldn’t be a role model, and couldn’t keep things together.

It’s hard to give myself a break. I do believe that people remember the one negative thing you did versus the 10 positive things you may do thereafter. I did apologize to my children for my behavior. They will forgive me, and they will move onward. I need to remember that the next time when I’m faced with this situation, the outcome should be different.

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Ever Wish

July 16, 2010

Ever wish you could set up a bootcamp for your children? Make them feel like they could know the meaning of respect, discipline and hard work?

It just may be time for a little role reversal in this house. I’m seeing far too much anger and attitude thrown about from both my daughters right now, and my wife and I aren’t happy about it. They can’t tell me things are so much worse here than when they lived in group homes. Instead of having multiple people to deal with in terms of roommates, it’s only 4 of us.

I realize in the summer time there’s more freedom and less of a solid structure. My wife and I still have to work because we don’t get the summers off from school as our daughters do. And yet they make us feel like we should be their entertainment committee, forking out our hard earned money at the mere impulsive instinct they have to buy something.

Life doesn’t work that way though.

I was working part time jobs from the time I was 13. I developed my own deejay business out of necessity to fill a need. My junior high school needed an affordable disc jockey to play at dances, and my best friend and I had the equipment and record collection to do the job. It took us a couple of years of reinvestment, experience and a learning curve to really better ourselves, but we believed we could succeed and we did. When I felt like I needed more income, I started working at a local private school cafeteria.

Bottom line was, I didn’t mope and groan about boredom or my lack of money. I figured out a way to be creative and use my skills to earn money.

Right now we are preparing for a multi-family yard sale over the weekend. The girls are pricing their items that they want to sell, and I think a lot of times they overestimate what they can get. They are learning the art of bartering prices, and judging consumer demand versus what the market will be willing to spend on those items. My wife and I have a similar goal: we don’t want to cart back to our apartment the same amount we put into the car in the first place. Priced to go, and that’s what we aim for.

If I could find the Delorian and go back in time like Marty McFly in Back To The Future, I would send both kids back in different time periods. Probably one to when I was a child, and another back to the Depression years of the 1930’s. Then maybe they would start appreciating how easy life is now compared to then. Maybe it would motivate them more to not expect others to design their lives- to actually think, learn and grow themselves.

If I could wave my magic wand, I’d start certain aspects of their lives over again. I want happiness and harmony for all, and yet I know I can’t make either happen unless they want it to happen. Have a wonderful day everyone, thank you for reading this and keep smiling and keep giving to others.


What Is A Deal Breaker?

July 13, 2010

I figure this would open up a debate on where you think a deal breaker is when it comes to your children and where you have to put your foot down to teach an important life lesson. We all know that as parents we have to pick our battles. As children get older and strive for autonomy and independence, you can’t be there all the hours of the day to keep your children away from making poor choices.

What would be a deal breaker for you? When it comes to safety and security? Do you put a premium on honesty, integrity, keeping up with their rooms, teaching them responsibility, household chores?

We are a week into both children being back at home. For the most part they’ve been working on adjusting to our expectations as parents. My oldest mentioned to me that she still has to break out of group home habits- even though she’s lived with us 7 years and was there for a little over a month. We are patient and not overbearing on every little issue.

I’m thinking about teaching an important lesson regarding personal property, because both girls have different feelings about touching or borrowing other people’s items. They’ll get furious if it happens to them, but not really have any qualms about taking items from others if they need it in the moment. They must not believe in their conscious the consequences are severe enough to stop them from this act.

When I was growing up I learned an important lesson regarding this in junior high. I ended up severing a couple of friendships because these kids thought it would be hilarious to steal from a big department store. Even though the cameras were right in front of the area they would be stealing from. I went into a line to buy something legitimate and didn’t know what they were doing. Security ended up stopping all 3 of us- and my parents were notified as we were at the mall with them.

So I guess I learned to be careful who I associate with, what my values were, and that I need to have money to be able to purchase stuff- not just take because I feel it’s my right to do so. I’d like to teach my girls this same ethic, but I feel that the impact has to be full force in order for it to stay with them.

Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you again for your support of these posts- I really appreciate all the comments and debate that goes on. If it makes you think and you act in a different way, that’s a good thing. You are growing- you are showing that you care- and pass this help on to others in need.


Ebb and Flow

July 12, 2010

We’ve been having our share of emotional struggles this past weekend with both the girls. What’s been great so far is their willingness to accept responsibility and do repair work. We may not be able to quiet down their outbursts in the moment- but my wife and I are hoping that as a result of the repair work they’ve been doing they really think about the consequences of their actions. Towards themselves- towards each other- towards the environment they are in- and towards us.

I don’t know whether it’s related to an age situation or wanting to break free independently, but my oldest seems to be engaging in a power struggle over how the events of the day will play out with us. She figures in her head if she wants things a certain way- that’s how it will be. If she makes a promise to someone and doesn’t feel in the mood to follow through, that we will bail her out of a commitment. That would be doing her a great disservice though. We are teaching her responsibility, even if she doesn’t like it in the moment, we want her to understand you don’t break the promises that you make to people that depend on you.

My youngest daughter who is very careful on how things are done discussed with my wife earlier in the day about trading one particular repair job for another. She is cleaning the refrigerator inside and out and organizing it better for us to be able to find the items we need. She does get overwhelmed at such large tasks so I use a bit of positive verbal reinforcement and physical reinforcement (high fives, hugs) to keep her spirits going in the right direction.

I want her to know that I’m glad that she is showing us that she wants to work together as a family and pull us closer with the completion of this task. Earlier in the weekend she picked up the bathroom as a result of another repair task, and these steps are huge to recognizing what we have to do when we face challenges and act out towards the one we love inappropriately.

So today I feel like my head is in a bit of a fog. Our building where we live had a fire alarm go off about 45 minutes into my normal sleep time. The cats ran underneath the bed and stayed for a long time for fear of the high pitched wail. My daughter made sure I was aware of the alarm and we quickly left the house.

So my message today is understand the ebb and flow of your children and their emotions, especially during the summer time. They want to relax, they know they have commitments to fulfill and yet you may hear the two famous words all children love to say, “I’m bored.” Don’t take this personally. They need to crank up their imaginations and be able to not have items entertain them all the time- they can be very creative if you let them. Channel that energy in the right direction.


Seriously

July 11, 2010

We tend to say this word a lot around our house. Probably because it breaks the tension when there is a sense of discontent. It’s been two days since both children have returned to the house, and typical personality traits have quickly come to the surface.

It’s clear that the health of one is better than the health of another. Not necessarily from a physical standpoint- more from a commitment and attachment standpoint. My wife noticed yesterday that there seems to be a struggle for power and control with the one daughter who seems to want what the other daughter has- and yet she doesn’t want to take the steps necessary to gain the closeness she desires with us as parents.

Instead of following directions, she’ll purposely do her own thing. When she doesn’t want to face a situation that could be stressful, she’ll give up or act like she’s not capable of getting her own clothes, taking a shower, finding an appropriate snack, keeping her room clean, doing her homework, and so on down the line. Meanwhile she watches our other daughter gain the opportunity to go over friends houses, enjoy the comforts of texting on her cell phone, being able to use the computer, and basically giving and accepting love and affection and back and forth communication.

She knows what she wants, but doesn’t want to put the work in to get it. She believes it should just be naturally handed to her. It’s such a shame that the world doesn’t work in quite that same manner.

I didn’t have my first car until the summer before I left for college. I spent 2 1/2 years saving up money from my deejaying on the weekends and my part time cafeteria job to buy a 1973 Dodge Dart Sweeper for $1,400. I paid for the car in full and paid for a year’s worth of insurance. It had 55,000 miles on it and I ended up using it for my full 4 years of college. I remember taking one of my math classmates from Lowell to the Cape and back for $50. But I never expected my parents to just give me a car or pay for one totally on my own because I just wanted it or I deserved it.

Seriously, I worry that her adulthood is going to be even more of a struggle than her childhood. Will my youngest just give up on a job because her boss looked at her the wrong way? How will she be able to find a nice, charming partner who will love and care for her if she doesn’t know how to be appropriate to her parents? You can’t shape or change the people you interact with regularly- you either accept them as they are or you learn to change how you view their opinions and the way they treat you.

We’ve talked to her many times about the fact that if she’s truly unhappy- she has to make the moves. No one else is going to change the circumstances or her environment- unless she wants zero control for the rest of her life.

Seriously.

Surely I am, and I know my wife is. We will throw more of our attention on to anyone who treats us with respect, is real about their feelings and willing to be productive to work as a family. I can’t reward negative attention any more.


Just the Four of Us

July 9, 2010

We can make it if we try- just the four of us… yes, I modified the song title. But for the first time, we are back together as a family. We had our first meeting with the in house therapy team, and naturally everyone wants to make sure they get their needs met. What will be changing? What will stay the same?

The hopes are we can productively work together to be a family. It’s not the easiest of circumstances. It’s going to take a little while for people to get used to what the expectations are in a family versus living away with staff being in charge. The girls want to earn privileges and money to buy many of their own things- and we need to have a system in place. I like the idea of having a visible status of their behaviors within the house- instead of reminding them verbally how they are doing, they can look up at a poster board and there would be less of a problem.

Do I have worries? Of course. There will probably be a honeymoon period- and I welcome it. My hope is that when they do feel the pressures of the world falling on them, and they feel like blowing up or running away that they make better decisions. It’s not wrong to ask for help. It’s perfectly okay to take space. We can move from our emotional minds into our wise minds once we are in control.

I’m listening to my daughter argue at an inanimate object- the cell phone. I’ve missed those wacky conversations. I’ve missed her passionate spirit within the house. I’m glad that she’s home. I’m hopeful that the past month and a half has resonated deeply within her mental psyche about how much people care for her, but that she has to participate fully in the process of life.

More to say in the coming future. Have a great day. Thank you readers, friends, and family for all of your help and support. We could not do this all alone. Through patience, through guidance, through the tools and resources we have in our lives, we are piecing the parts of our lives back together. It’s not done overnight- it’s not done in a day or a week or even a month. We have time on our side- and we will work through this as a team.


Ponder This

July 8, 2010

Where would we be if we could re-invent our lives? Have you ever thought about certain momentous decisions that took your life in a direction you never imagined? Are there times in your life that you ponder and wrestle around in your head certain “What if?” scenarios?

I think when we are feeling overwhelmed at what life throws at us, we do wish we could step off and start all over again. We need to remember that there’s a definite reason why the challenges are put before us to overcome, learn from and conquer. I’ve learned so much about life through how my children handle their lives- how often they give up on themselves and need the care and push from my wife and I to realize they will survive and they can make it successfully through whatever problem or challenge that’s put in front of them.

My oldest daughter doesn’t handle a number of changes or worries in her life well. She tends to magnify the impact, or play worst case scenario in her head- so her answer to the challenge is to blow up, run away in her mind from the situations and push people away with her words and actions. It’s part of her personality that she’s working on- because she’s been quick to apologize and explain herself better over the past month than at any point in her life.

She’s moving into a new chapter of her therapy. Her long time therapist is moving into private practice and will no longer be able to see her. She established a seven year relationship with this therapist, one that took a few months to establish but has blossomed. We know that she fears that her new clinician will not be able to help her as well as the old therapist could.

Any of these changes usually trigger doubt towards us sticking around for the long haul too. It’s amazing how the mind takes one loss and spills it into another, isn’t it? Even though we’ve made sure to take her phone calls, accompany her to her appointments and meetings, and have longer visits as the weeks pass by- she still thinks that we could just drop her as a daughter.

Could I go back and predict that when each daughter moved into the house, we would face all the chaos and turbulence we’ve endured this year? No- but I wouldn’t want to change what has happened. I know that as children these feelings needed to come out in some way. It may not have been the healthiest of ways- but in order to heal, we need to take the trauma, the guilt, the pain and pour it out somehow in order to forge the best life.

So if you take the time to ponder certain things, understand that we have to live in the here and now with where we are at. Sure, you may think it’s time wasted if you’ve been in a long term relationship that ended unsuccessfully, or you’ve struggled to make ends meet in this economy, or you went for years working at jobs that didn’t meet your desired personal satisfaction. I choose to look at the experiences from another perspective- how it’s made me grow, learn and understand what I’m capable of and what I can endure.

I think people often doubt their inner strength and capabilities. We can do so much more if we just give ourselves the credit and chance to do so.