Tough Lessons

July 20, 2010

Sometimes we have to learn by example. Sometimes we have to learn through experience. I believe today my oldest daughter learned an important lesson on friendship, trust and responsibility- both from the child’s view as well as the parent view.

She was sleeping over a friend’s house, and a verbal fight occurred between the friend and my daughter. She was scheduled to sleep over for 2 nights. Since the friend didn’t want to resolve the argument amicably, in the early afternoon the mother ordered my daughter to leave the house.

Her resourceful brain had her walk to our old neighborhood and decide to see if our across the street former neighbors were still there. Luckily they were until I could be called to pick her up.

What parent kicks out their friend in the middle of a sleep over? Is it that tough to use your parenting skills and resolve things? When this friend had difficulty over our house with our daughter, we talked things through, apologies were made and the sleepover went through without a hitch. That’s being proactive and doing the right thing for the benefit of a relationship.

I’m hoping my daughter learned that this friend isn’t a true friend if she is unwilling to resolve conflicts- or if her manner of solving the problem is to just let people leave her life. I would never do that to a child. That’s the easy way of handling conflict and challenge- just run away from the problem or act like it doesn’t exist. What do children learn from that? They’ll probably end up parenting in the same way- learning from observation.

I didn’t scold my daughter because she did the right thing. My wife and I warned her that previous actions from the mother and her daughter weren’t really acts of kindness but more of selfishness. I think she learned that who she really thought was a friend wasn’t much of a friend at all.

To me a friend is someone who you may occasionally have disagreements with, but will be in your corner when you need them. They are there for the good times and the hard times- the celebrations as well as when you need comfort. It’s a mutual back and forth exchange.

I’m hoping my daughter understands the investment of a good friendship is worth it in the long run. It may be scary for her to want to develop new relationships, and I’m sure she’ll approach the next one cautiously. She tends to be an all in kind of person- you know where she stands at all times.

I want her to know not all people are like this former friend. You don’t leave at the first sign of conflict. If you are truly a friend, you look at the other person’s point of view and consider where they are coming from. It’s not always about you. I know she’s in pain about this long term friendship coming to such a crashing end- so I will be there if she needs a dad to listen.


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.

Fear Of Choice

June 28, 2010

We’ve had our daughter home with us now for 11 days, and we are starting to sense that her passive-aggressive behavior may be something that is difficult for her to navigate within a family structure. There’s a sense that it’s easier to protect herself and maintain a certain sense of control over closeness versus taking the chance to and go all in so to speak with your head and heart to trust my wife and I for full loving commitment.

I don’t want this fear of choice to plague her relationships for the rest of her life- and yet my daughter thinks we are delusional that how your childhood relationships are with your parents do have a significant impact on your adult relationships- with your partner, with your family, with your friends, and especially how you feel about yourself.

I feel blessed that I grew up in a family with a mother and a father my whole childhood and through adulthood. Single parents, adoptive parents, step-parents, and others who have to take on this role have a much harder road to climb. Children thrive with stability, and they may not know where to turn to if they feel like people aren’t going to be there for them for the rest of their lives.

In the mornings, my youngest will throw statements out there and play the blame game: seemingly innocent statements but the blame and pain are hurled at anyone else but looking within at herself. It’s mom’s fault she didn’t wake me up on time- it’s your fault that I didn’t get to eat breakfast- I don’t have enough clothing to wear- you don’t give me the same privileges you give your other daughter- and so on down the line.

When I went to drop my youngest off today at her grandmother’s so I could get sleep from work, I said that I love her. The response of “uh huh” spoke volumes of how she knows that her words and her actions can have an impact on us. It’s difficult at times to handle the fact that she may want to love but doesn’t feel safe in her head and heart to do this. She’s had so many times where the promise of love has been dangling before her, only to be whisked away to another family and have to start all over again.

We are here to make sure she grows up to be a wonderful young lady. Whether she thinks we can give her the tools for success or she thinks we are the biggest idiots in the world to me is inconsequential. I want her to know that we didn’t give up on her hopes, her dreams, her need for love and affection and understanding. She can be angry about her early childhood and the events that happened around her, but I consistently remind her that she can always change her view of the past when she’s ready to. You can either live in the past or set a new course in the present for your future.

I don’t want her to be frozen by fear. She needs to move beyond the anger and confusion and start making decisions that will benefit her in adulthood. She has to be willing to hold herself accountable and not put her head in the sand all the time when challenges arise. Do the same for yourself in your own life. Do not be afraid to complete the incomplete- resolve issues that have been holding you down for weeks or months or years. You’ll be surprised how much weight off your shoulders you’ll feel.

Choices For Today

June 2, 2010

I choose today to be happy for my wife and I on our 9th wedding anniversary. It may have been a rainy day, but I feel we’ve been blessed with a great marriage. We are able to handle the ups and downs of life with a sense of humor, and we learn to communicate through the good times and challenges without bitterness. We enjoy the little things in life as much as the bigger things. We get excited when the other returns home from work, and we look forward to many more years together.

I choose to accept where my children are at in terms of their mental health. I hope that they are willing to continue to resolve their issues. They can be angry about the choices we’ve had to make- but as parents it’s our responsibility to make this house a safe place for people to come home to. I only hope in the future they realize that you can still receive good guidance from elders without those elders going through a lot of the experiences you went through growing up. It’s time to turn a new leaf and realize that your past does not dictate your life’s destiny- you can change the course whenever you put your mind and heart into it.

I choose to participate in life every day. There’s no sense in me letting time go by idly without learning, growing, caring and sharing. Education does not end when you complete your schooling- at whichever level you are at, understand that newer information comes at us from all directions. The most successful and adaptable people are ones who believe that they can learn from others, learn from the past and present to provide an even better future.

I choose to be grateful for what I have within my life. I have a great job, I have a wonderful place to live, I have a great family and friends who lift me up and are around me because they want to be. I don’t ever want to take the kindness, generosity and support of others for granted. Remember that the more you maintain and put into your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health- the better your life will be in the long run.

Think about your own choices today. Think about ones that you’ve been making that you are happy with and continue to look at what makes them important to you. Think about the habits you want to change- write them down- and then pick one to set a 30 day trial for change. Find the appropriate resources, set the goal and then write out a daily action plan for success. Imagine if you did this for 12 areas of your life that you want to see change- if you set a 30 day trial for each you could see incremental, sustainable change happen on a month to month basis.

Slow down and take care of yourself. The choices you make today can impact your total lifestyle months and years down the road. Become the best person you can.

High School Blues

February 22, 2010

Naturally when you see your own children going through the same events you went through in high school, it brings back feelings of your own struggles, insecurities and fears of those times. My daughter wants to bad to fit in, and she’s watching her friends gain boyfriends and relationships, something she wants badly for herself. My wife and I can relate to these times so much.

As anyone knows my schooling history, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a “ladies man”. I can count the number of boyfriend/ girlfriend relationships I had in high school safely on one hand- probably with a leftover or two. I didn’t struggle with friendships- I had plenty of those. A lot of times I didn’t understand the signals of when to ask people on dates, let alone keeping a girlfriend for longer than a couple of months. If people want to look at many of my early pictures, there are plenty on various social media websites to share.

What I did get across to my daughters (as did my wife) is that high school can be a tough time with peer relationships and finding oneself, and that things will be different when they enter adulthood. I know it’s probably disconcerting news as they go through this, but I promised that things will get better. Do I wish I could wave a magic wand and make things better? Of course… but I can’t because they need to go through these experiences themselves.

The best piece of advice I could give my daughters was the happiness and great qualities they exhibit within their personalities need to shine around their peers. People sense contentment and confidence. They like to be around people who are nice, who are willing to listen and who take an interest in them. I found that the more that I tried to gain a girlfriend, the less that ever happened for me.

So when your children come to you with the school blues of any sort, be willing to listen and offer them support. Emphasize the unique qualities they have and reassure them that they aren’t the only ones going through these same situations. It’s a natural stage of development in order to truly find oneself. College seems to make a difference, as well as when people move on from their family and live on their own.

Maybe these feelings are coming back due to the end of school vacation and the fact that my oldest once again will see boys and girls paired off, making her feel like a third wheel. Coming from that same experience, it made me focus on doing things that made me happy and being around a diverse peer group. It may have taken me longer to find the love of my life, but I know the years of waiting and working on myself were worth it.

Any other suggestions you may have for my daughters? I would welcome feedback as well as what seemed to work well if you went through these similar feelings or experiences.

Why Can’t We Talk About It?

February 10, 2010

Maybe I’m asking for too much. When you sense something off in your family, you encourage people that you are receptive to listening and willing to be patient in the hopes that they get whatever is in their mind off their chest and out in the open. I’m aware of the fact that I may not be able to solve every problem in 10 minutes or 10 days- I just want as peaceful of a household as possible.

Competition rules my house. One afternoon I may spend half an hour helping one daughter with homework- the next I’ll have to help my other daughter. They have a difficult time studying in the same manner- one likes to be loud and boisterous, the other needs complete silence. As a result we had another major meltdown- although I don’t know exactly what I was doing to cause the events to unfold.

Is it wrong for me to want to talk things out before we reach implosion mode? I have no idea what happens often in the 6 hours they are at school. I’m sleeping, I take my shower and I stay awake for 30 minutes before they come home. I give them space to talk about their day, have a snack and unwind. They didn’t even have therapy today, so there should have been less anxiety than before.

I can’t take on the world’s problems. I can’t stop stress and frustration from entering their lives. I can only teach them to cope and use their minds to realize when they are escalating and hopefully redirect their behavior in another, more positive direction. I’m thankful my wife realized that I needed a little time to calm down after the tantrum and regather myself so I would be helpful to others later in the evening.

The winter time really has been harsh on the minds of my daughters. They feel constricted in the confines of the home. When I make suggestions for certain activities, they feign interest.

I guess when I feel emotional overload, I have multiple sources that will help me reflect and re-direct my energy in another direction. Sometimes reading works, sometimes listening to loud music works, sometimes writing gets the energy out, sometimes bowling diffuses things, even doing household chores. It’s a challenge to get the appropriate activities going that will work every time.

It’s the push and pull of children wanting to live in adult roles while we ask them to enjoy their childhood for just a few more years. My wife and I don’t want them to take on protective roles. We aren’t asking them to be queens of the castle, or our parents. We do want them to take responsibility for their actions and realize that words can cut deep, especially if they throw out accusations that they can’t really back up. I’ve found that being physically present but keeping my mouth quiet does wonders, as it forces both of them to really think about what the other person may be feeling and reflect on what was said or done to cause the response they are getting.

It’s why I have this blog. One of my healthiest resources outside of my wife, our therapists and our family and friends to just vent without hurting anyone. I’m sure others can relate to some of the experiences we go through- as all families have to work to get things accomplished. I advise everyone to not just recognize the power of words but also the tone and attitude you use when delivering them.

In the meantime, I’ll always make myself available to my daughters when they need a dad to listen.

The More We Are The Same

January 10, 2010

Well, my youngest got the boot camp experience today. We woke up and explained to her in no uncertain terms that she would have to show us over the next couple of days that she wanted to be a healthy, contributing and productive part of our family. Otherwise more structure would come into play from outside sources.

So far on day one, she had a couple of minor flare ups but overall kept her attitude in control. We channeled her energy into a cleaning session and also had more positive discussion regarding what she would like to see within the family. We included our older daughter in the mix and are planning out more of our nights so that we can be together- sans television watching or sitting in front of our computer screens. I believe the children need us for guidance, for structure, for security and to help them through the good times as well as the tough times.

Earlier in the week I had the chance to have a brief discussion with the psychiatrist both of my daughters see. He noted that even in adopted families the children often take on the personality traits of the forever parents. As different as their lives were before they came to live with us, the more we are able to function as a family in such a short period of time.

I remember one key concept I read in Will Bowen’s Complaint Free Relationships that I have worked on applying with my children. There’s no sense in arguing reality. Everyone sees life through their own mirror. You are wasting valuable time if you feel the need to be right over what you see, rather than just understanding that everyone has their own individual perception of reality.

As my daughters are healing, strange words and concepts will come out of their mouths. They have to learn and feel their way through the bumps and highways of life. We can’t protect everything they do and say. We only hope to guide them on the right path. We hope that they come to us when they feel like there’s a safe place they need to go to.

In order to bring about change, it has to come from within. You wish you could bottle up the “aha” moments and savor them when they are most needed again. We are all hopeful that our youngest daughter’s rocky days are nearing their end, but even if they aren’t we will make sure that she has the best support system in place. She may buck at therapy and feel that all of the outside people we are bringing in are not improving her world, but I think in the long run she will be very thankful for the thousands of opportunities she has had to live the good life.

Tomorrow will be another day, hopefully a stronger day than the last. As long as I make both of my daughters feel special, feel loved, and feel important, the rest will take care of itself. My wife and I are a strong team, united to a cause to produce adults who can stand proud in this world and ready to handle anything that comes their way.