Honestly, Do The Right Thing

While at a local park last week my three year old daughter learned the hard way why it’s best to leave her toys in the car. Not even 15 minutes into our time there she had her purse full of goodies (lip stuff, a wooden fan and some hair things) stolen. She had set it down while playing on the swings with her friend and it was gone when she looked for it again a little later on. I’m assuming that another chid took it out of curiosity or envy. That doesn’t bother me as much as the idea that her parent was willing to basically condone that behavior by allowing the child to keep the purse that didn’t belong to her. If my child had done that, you can bet that she would have returned that purse the moment I discovered what she had done. Along with an apology. I’m a good teacher when it comes to apologizing. Lots of practice. Just ask my kids. Or my mom.

A friend of mine, Adrienne, posted on Facebook last week that the cashier at the gas station accidentally put her $45 in the wrong pump. No big deal, except that the person who benefitted from that mistake gladly pumped the extra gas before taking off. $50 of gas for only $5! Merry Christmas, right? Thankfully, my friend kept her cool with the cashier (way to go!) and eventually got reimbursed, so at least her story has a happy ending. During the two and a half years that we’ve lived here in Washington my wife’s car (a small SUV) has been hit three times by hit-and-run drivers while her car was parked. And there was not even as much as a note left. Just the calling card of the hit-and-run artist. I could go on and on, as I’m sure all of you readers could as well, sharing stories of times that we’ve been wronged, victims of other people’s inability unwillingness to do the right thing.

So, what’s the big deal? Why is it important to be honest and do the right thing? Does it really matter? I would argue that it does matter if we live lives of integrity and honesty. In general, as a society we depend of the decency of others in order to make it through our daily lives. Following traffic laws is a pretty easy example. Sure, I go 27 in a 25 zone (not in Fircrest, WA or Rosendale, WI, but that’s another story!) or slightly over the posted speed limit when I’m driving. But I stop at red lights and stop signs and such. You get the idea. And, for the most part, so does everyone else. And as a result, we can get around without too many problems. But I’d rather focus on the opportunities we have, as parents, to show our children how to live and how to do the right thing. After all, they’re always watching us, whether we like it or not.

One time a few years ago while out to eat, my son took his water cup up to the soda fountain to get more water but came back with a cup full of lemonade. Instead of looking the other way, he and I went to the cashier and he explained what had happened and paid for his drink. Once we got home he paid me from his own money for the drink. He no longer swipes drinks from the soda fountain unless it’s been paid for. Lesson learned. There have been numerous times over the years that I’ve been a Stay At Home Dad when I’ve received too much change back (on the rare occasions that I pay with cash) and I always give it back. Even if that means hauling the kids back into the store if I don’t catch it right away. There was one instance, back in 2003, when I was early in my SAHD gig that I bought two items on my way to the airport to go out of town for five days. Problem was, when I got to the airport, I looked at the receipt and realized that I had only been charged for one of the items. The day after I returned, I brought the items and the receipt (along with two young kids) and explained to the customer service rep what had happened and wanted to pay for the item. She looked at me like I was crazy and told me that she didn’t know how to do that; that I should just keep the item for free for being so honest. I insisted that I rightfully should’ve paid for the item in the first place and didn’t want to contribute to price mark-ups to make up for stolen items. She shook her head and got her manager, who exclaimed that she had never seen anyone ever! return an item trying to pay for it. After several minutes of furious typing something into the computer at the checkout they finally took my money. I still think of that experience every time I wear that Packers hat or my kids toss that talking Packers football. While it did cost me a few bucks, doing the right thing wasn’t too painful or costly. But that’s not always the case.

A few months after moving here I took an out of town guest and some of our kids to play in the snow at Mount Rainier National Park. While leaving the mostly empty parking lot I managed to back into the rear quarter panel of an unoccupied car that was parked in the lot. It would’ve been easy to check it out and leave. But that thought never crossed my mind. Once I calmed my kids down I wrote a note with my contact information and left it on the person’s car. Later that evening I received an email from the car’s owner. She was very upset (understandable) and a little bit rude to me about my accident. I kindly responded that yes, I did hit her. But she should be thankful that I was raised well by loving parents who taught me good values. So, instead of leaving the scene I owned up to my mistake and did the right thing. I explained that we had been hit-and-run victims multiple times in the first four months of living in Washington, so karma clearly wasn’t working for us in that situation. While it was an expensive mistake to make, the fact that I was able to keep my composure, be honest and do the right thing in front of my children was a priceless lesson for my kids to learn.

Every day we’re faced with situations that are often unpleasant and sometimes even out of our control. I’d encourage you to try to be honest and do the right thing. Even if your kids are not there to watch you, chances are that someone else is. Besides, it feels good. So just do it. (Sorry, Nike.)

Don’t Wish Me a “Happy Mother’s Day”

Over each of the past 13 years that I’ve been a Stay At Home Dad there’s been at least one person every year who thinks it’s funny to wish me “Happy Mother’s Day, Mr. Mom”. Here’s the scoop. It’s. Not. Funny. The first few times I heard that I laughed at it, in the same way that I laughed at being called a “Mr. Mom”. More cringing than laughing. Then, after it happened a few times I began to think about why it was insulting to moms and dads for me, a dad, to be wished a “Happy Mother’s Day”. This day celebrates moms. All moms. Those who choose to work at home as full time moms and those who choose to work full time outside of the home. And any combination in between. Retired moms. Expecting moms. You get the picture. Just because I have chosen to work in a role that has been traditionally filled by women doesn’t make me a mom. I’m still a dad. And my wife is still a mom.

My friend that I met at the National At Home Dad Network annual convention last October, Mike Andrews, Jr., blogger at Geek Daddio of 4, put into words very nicely what I wanted to say. Check out his full blog entry, Mother’s Day: A day for moms. Not dads. Here’s a quote from that piece.

We handle every aspect of the house while our amazing wives do what needs to be done to ensure there is food in our mouths and clothes on our backs. But I ask this one simple question, Since when does Mother’s Day mean Homemakers Day?

Exactly…It doesn’t

To me, it seems that by giving an at home dad a Mother’s Day gift you are just slapping both, moms and dads, in the face. You are saying, “Dads, you are not man enough and working moms you are not womanly enough because you don’t stay at home.” And that is just wrong. Moms deserve Mother’s Day. It is their day to relax and forget about their problems while the kids serve them. It is a day to honor our mothers and just our mothers. At home dads have their own day, would you give a working mom a Father’s Day card because she is doing a mans job?

In essence, I’m asking you to help end the tired and worn out stereotyping of us SAHDs. It’s 2014. Not 1950. Mr. Mom is dead. Besides, this holiday is all about celebrating and honoring mothers. Happy Mother’s Day!

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Boycott Mother’s Day?

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It’s that time of year again where we’re all reminded to pay homage to moms. There’s even a whole day set aside in one week to recognize how fantastic and wonderful and perfect and amazing moms are and how lucky we are to have them in our lives. While it’s true that none of us would be here if not for our mothers, I find the whole idea of “Mother’s Day” to be quite ridiculous and contrived. Sure, the idea of stopping and showing appreciation for the countless hours and unconditional love is nice. Maybe it’s even something moms look forward to. I know for sure that Hallmark and Kay Jewelers are among the many businesses that pressure us to show our moms (or wives) how much they are appreciated by showering them with cards and expensive gifts and maybe even a special dinner that mom doesn’t have to prepare. But, why? Why only one day in May? I’m not suggesting that we have “Mother’s Day” multiple times each year. What I’m suggesting is that we show our appreciation and love more than one time each year.

How about instead of buying into the commercial aspect of the day we show true appreciation? Write her a letter. (Email doesn’t count.) Take mom for a walk in a park to look at the flowers while you engage in conversation. Make a photo collage or book and give it to her. Don’t buy her flowers or jewelry now (stores jack the prices now for suckers like us). Wait until some other random time (or times) and surprise her with flowers and a note of thanks. Do make her a nice dinner at home. Don’t overpay at some crowded restaurant. Take her out for dinner some other time. If you must eat out, maybe get it to go and make it a picnic at a park. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on your mom but you do need to spend your time with her. Celebrate her and help her to know how much you appreciate her. But don’t just do it next Sunday and then wait a whole year to do it again. I assure you that it won’t get old if you do it over and over and over…as long as you mean it. Thank you, moms, for all you do. You are loved and appreciated by this guy.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that anyone actually boycott celebrating Mother’s Day. Like most holidays (Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.) it is the over-the-top commercialization in our culture that I’m railing against. Mothers deserve our highest honor and respect all year long and they don’t need a necklace to prove it…just like I don’t need a tie or some other kitchy thing to prove my worth on Father’s Day.

 

Moms-What do YOU think? Did I get it right or am I way off base? Please let me know. I genuinely am interested in your comments.

Actions Speak Louder

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Once in a while something happens to me that rocks me to my core and I become a blubbering mess of emotions as I process what I’m feeling. That happened to me just a few days ago thanks to my 19 year old daughter, Nora. She graduated high school last June and two days later moved almost 2,000 miles away. Over the last 10 months I’ve seen her in person three times but almost daily thanks to FaceTime on our iPhones. So, while my “active parenting” with her is over, I’m still able to be close to her and maintain a pretty nice relationship with her. It was during one of our chats last week that she told me she was writing a song about something that I did over four years ago, when we were still living in Madison, Wisconsin. Here’s what I did back in September of 2009. I bought a bunch of sandwiches and curly fries from Arby’s and brought it down to State Street in downtown Madison to share it with the many panhandlers who worked the area. I told my kids what I had done (they were all in school at the time) and they thought it was pretty cool. I suppose we had a few minor discussions about why they’re asking for money and why they don’t work and stuff like that as well as why it’s nice to be able to share something real like food with people who need it. And that was about the extent of it.

And then Nora told me that she wrote a song about what I did and how “actions speak louder than words”. She sent me an audio file of her new song and I began to cry as soon as I heard it. (I was driving at the time and had to pull over to the curb for a few minutes.) The beauty of her voice and the guitar and the meaning of the lyrics pierced my soul and reminded me that my years of hard work and dedication as a SAHD and parent for her were not in vain. What really got to me was hearing her telling others through her song the exact message that I was trying to convey when I helped out the street beggars that time. More lyrics: It’s not what you say…because you show your love when you give it away. It was a touching reminder to me that my kids are watching me all the time to see if my actions match my words. If nothing else, I hope that my children will know the importance of living a life of integrity and compassion and love…and that I can inspire that in them if my actions are in tune with my words. I know I’m not perfect, but I’m trying!

Left to their own devices?

I was selected to be part of a moms vs dads “blog-off” where five mom-bloggers and five dad-bloggers were paired off and given their own topics to write about for the “competition”. This is my entry. Topic: A child’s use of technology – your thoughts on children using gadgets like mobile phones and tablets, watching television etc. Does it stump their creativity, or inspire it? Brain-cell killers, or vital educational tools? Can there be too much or too little use of such things?

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When I was a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s we had video games (Atari anyone?), MTV, VCRs, personal computers with, gasp, games! We had hand held games of baseball and football and soccer in the latest LED lights and sounds. Yet, somehow, it didn’t stifle my generation’s creativity one bit. Perhaps our childhood fascination with technology inspired some to get involved in creating today’s laptops and iPads and iPhones and androids and apps and digital cameras. The art, film, music and theater industries all seem to be doing as well as ever – if not better than ever – under the direction of my generation and those that have followed. But with so much technology available to my generation it appears our brains weren’t ruined after all. This leads me to consider the question in regards to the children of today. Is technology ruining them, their brain cells and their creativity?

No. I don’t think that kids’ use of technology is killing off their brain cells one bit. I would argue that it’s having the opposite effect. There is a plethora of information and inspiration literally at their fingertips. My oldest daughter, who turns 19 this month, watched plenty of TV and videos as a child and got her own cell phone and laptop while in high school. Yet, she is one of the most creative people I know. She’s a singer/songwriter and artist. She’s composed dozens of songs and created many pieces on canvas and out of clay. One of my other kids created a trebuchet type of device using the contents of the bin of recycling and some tape. We all have iPods and/or iPhones and use them daily. While there are negative aspects to the use of technology (lack of interpersonal skills, obesity, wasted time spent watching YouTube “cat” videos, etc.) I’ve seen it enhance the lives of my children for the better. I don’t think they’re any less creative than my generation. Sure, the creativity of young people today is different than it was in generations past, but that doesn’t make it worse. Some of the things that young people create using technology are astonishing. It’s splattered all over the internet. For example, just this last week I found this video of a trombone player who used his laptop to record a cover of the pop song “Happy”. This guy’s marvelous technology-enabled performance is incredible for an old fart like me who grew up using computers the size of a small dorm fridge and floppy disks that were 5 1/4″ just to “create” a code to make a “turtle” draw rudimentary lines to try to form pictures.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to parenting with some limits and boundaries. When our kids were very young we tried to limit their screen time (including all iPods, laptops, TVs or DVD players) and gradually allowed it to increase as they got older and matured. I’m amazed at how much they enjoy using the technology. In fact, when my wife got her iPhone two years ago it was our then 20 month-old who taught her how to use the buttons on the side to adjust the volume. It would be easy to let the iPod or computer or TV be a babysitter. But that’s not healthy. It’s all about moderation. Technology can be used to enhance their learning and spark their interest in the world around them provided we show them reasonable limits.

My kids, while not always thrilled about it, understand those boundaries and enjoy being active more than being left to their own “devices”. Now that the weather is getting nicer I find them spending more and more time outside, playing and exploring the real world “hands free”. Using their eyes and ears and other senses instead of an iPod or computer. So, go. Get out of here and do some real living and exploring with your kids. But don’t forget to bring your iPhone so that you can document what they’re doing!

Family Fanatics

It’s past 2 am and I should’ve been asleep hours ago. Instead, I’m sitting on my sofa typing this blog, still internally wired after my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, won a thrilling game to advance to the Final Four next weekend. For those who are unaware or don’t care much about collegiate sports, this is a pretty big deal for both the team and their fans. The only other time the Wisconsin Badgers made it to the Final Four was 14 years ago. While I was fortunate enough to be living in Madison at that time and had connections that secured tickets for me to attend the Final Four with three friends it’s a bit different this time around. We no longer live in Madison, having moved almost 2,000 miles away to the state of Washington over two years ago. We now have six children, in March of 2000 we had an almost 5 year old and a 7 month old. In 2000 my wife knew I was excited about the Badgers but didn’t really care about the basketball team herself. My 5 year old also didn’t really care about sports, although she likely noticed my happy demeanor when the team surprised everyone and made their run to the Final Four. This time around, my oldest two kids are now almost 19 and 14, and neither one really cares about the Badgers basketball team. But my next two kids, ages 12 and 9, are quickly becoming my basketball buddies. Both of them have now played organized basketball for two seasons and seem to enjoy the game. It doesn’t hurt that they both were the tallest on their teams. But what’s been fun for me is to see the passion for the game begin to develop in them, just like it did in me when I was their age. I have fond memories of watching buzzer beaters and upsets in the tournament, although my team was never one of the “good” ones. So, it’s been an extra special treat to experience these games with my kids. And it’s not been limited to basketball. We’ve enjoyed many games cheering on our beloved Green Bay Packers over the years, following them to two Super Bowl wins in 1997 and 2011. While I’m still a Packers fan at heart, I’ve always liked the Seattle Seahawks second best because I was born in Washington state. So, now that we live close to Seattle I’ve been able to attend several Seahawks games and they even won the Super Bowl just last month, much to my delight and the chagrin of my kids. Interestingly enough, my 3 year old daughter now loves the Seahawks (more than the Packers!). She even requested a Seahawks hat that she proudly wears with her princess dresses. Image

So, what’s the point of me sharing this with you? It’s the shared memories that I’m making with my kids as we cheer for (or against) teams. It’s memories that I hope they will cherish as much as I do. I hope when they’re older they will fondly recall that time that Dad (me) jumped and screamed like a crazy guy when the Packers or Badgers made a big play. The memories I have of my own father watching sports on TV are not so great. He had a hard time watching the bumbling Packers of the 1980s because he grew up in the glorious Lombardi-era when the Packers were the best team in all of football. I remember him being so frustrated by the poor play that he would change the channel in the middle of the game or start shouting at the TV (like it would somehow help). While I’m passionate about my teams, I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of not letting the disappointment of a loss bring me down too much, if at all. After all, I simply look around and see my wife and kids and realize that there’s so much that I’m thankful for that makes a win or loss by my team pale in comparison. After all, it’s just a game. Still, being a little bit crazy for a few moments while we’re watching our team in a close game is so fun. Tonight, while the game was finishing, I was feeding my 9 month old while keeping an eye on the end of the Badgers game. In the adjoining living room my son and daughter were cheering and groaning with each basket. While I didn’t know if our team would win in the end, I was excited to see that they were coming down with a severe case of March Madness! On Wisconsin!

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Repeat after me…

Over the past few weeks I’ve been intrigued by both the NFL and Lean In attempting to persuade people to not use certain words. According to reports, the NFL is considering making it a penalty for a player to use the N-word on the field. Sheryl Sandberg of Lean In and others have started a campaign to #banbossy. I know of other campaigns to ban words from our daily usage as well. While in high school, my oldest daughter alerted me to the campaign Spread the Word to Stop the Word in relation to the term retarded. I know there are other words that people or groups have tried to ban, also with perfectly legitimate reasons. However, I don’t want to debate the merit of any of these campaigns. I’d rather look at childhood language development since I’m viewing this through the lens of a dad with young children.

As a parent, and specifically as a SAHD (but this applies to any At Home parent) because I’m around my kids so much, I have a huge influence on the development of my children. I am fully aware of this critical role I play in their lives and that’s one of the many reasons I chose to become a SAHD over 13 years ago. One of the biggest areas of influence is in the words I choose to use with my kids. And in front of my kids. They learn how to talk and what words to use from how I speak around them. Back in 1998, when my oldest was only three years old, my younger brother brought his girlfriend to meet us all for the first time. At some point during their visit his girlfriend said “stupid” in a playful manner about something. My daughter heard it and told her very seriously, “We don’t say that word in our family.” To this day they still joke with my daughter about that incident (my little brother married her despite her potty mouth). I wish that I could report that the term “stupid” is never uttered in our house. The point of that cute story is to illustrate that language is learned and can be guided. I go back to my own childhood for a not-so-cute memory about the word nigger.

I remember being in the back seat of my grandpa’s large Buick sedan as we drove from Lake Michigan back to his house across town in Racine, Wisconsin. To get back to his house we had to go through a part of town that wasn’t middle-class white. Being born in 1902, my grandpa used the term nigger like it was no big deal when talking about black people. Although, in this particular instance he was using it in a rather derogatory manner because he probably felt threatened by the black people “taking over” his beloved city. Was he racist? Most likely. He died in 1990 when I was only 17 so I can’t really speak to his thoughts about black people. But, I can say that his use of that term was very jarring for me. It wasn’t a word we used in my house. Looking back at that memory makes me appreciate the fact that I never heard my own father use that term even though he grew up with a father who used it. My father chose to break away from the pattern of his childhood in how he raised his family. I’ll be forever grateful to him for that choice. I know plenty of people today who still use that term to try to express their hate and vitriol for black people. It’s probably one of the most loaded and vile words in the English language. Even typing the word nigger for this post makes me very uncomfortable. (My guess is that it makes you equally uncomfortable to read it and that’s the point!) It is a word that I don’t use and have never even typed before because it is so terribly offensive and hurtful. My nine year old son had never heard of the term when I asked him about it before writing this post. So, I explained a little bit about it and made him promise to never use that word and to speak up if he ever hears someone else use it. While a small piece of his childhood innocence was lost in that conversation I hope that I’ve begun to instill in him a sense of moral and civic responsibility to speak up when people use words like nigger (or retarded, faggot, homo, etc.) which are meant to hurt and demean others. I asked my 14 and 12 year old daughters if they knew what the term meant and they both told me that they learned about it in school from teachers. My 14 year old said, “I know it’s bad. Besides, it’s not like you and mom ever use that word.” So, since I don’t use the N-word at all, much less around my kids. I must be a great dad, right?

Not so fast! I’ve been fortunate enough to be a SAHD for many years. One of the things I get to do is drive my kids to/from school and all over the place as we do stuff together. While I don’t swear at all or beep my horn much, I do enjoy venting a little bit at the stupid (we don’t say that word, either!) drivers who are constantly surrounding me. It’s not even on the scale of road rage or anything like that. Just some good sarcastic humor to help me cope with their stupidity (sorry again). Only problem is that I’ve got ears in the back seat with a mouth that repeats. This point was illustrated not too long ago when my adorable three year old noticed the Prius ahead of us not moving when the light turned green. Naturally, she admonished the driver to go, saying “Come on old lady, find the gas pedal!”. While I was proud that she was contextually correct in the application of her language, I was appalled at what I’d just heard. When my daughter opened her mouth, I heard myself. Pretty sobering. It was at that moment that I decided that I needed to curb my comments, although once in a while a “Learn how to drive!” or “Roundabouts just aren’t that hard!” flies out of my pie-hole before I realize it.

By sharing these different stories I’m trying to raise awareness about the importance of the words we each choose to use. And yes, it’s a choice. How we talk to and in front of our children can, does and will influence what words they choose to use. It also tells a lot about the kind of person we each are on the inside. If we, as parents, would choose to use our words to build up and encourage one another instead of to tear down, then we wouldn’t need to have campaigns to ban certain words. And that starts at home with us, setting expectations for our children while being mindful of the influence that we have on their development. They’re always watching us and absorbing like big sponges. The bottom line is that our words have power.; the power to build up or the power to tear down. I’ll leave you with one last anecdote that just happened today. As we were driving, one of my older kids said the word “stupid” and my three year old said, “Oooh. You’re going to get in trouble. My daddy doesn’t allow his kids use that word!” Message received and delivered.

Climbing the Mountain

In May of 2012 I took my then seven year old son, Cornelius, on a week long cruise to Alaska. As a full time SAHD I spend most of my time with my family, but I was looking forward to some great one-on-one time with my only boy. After two days at sea we arrived at our first port, the capital city of Juneau. We were both excited to be on dry land again and were ready for adventure together. We took an interesting and informative, 2.5 hour long bus tour of the city and Mendenhall Glacier, led by a native Alaskan Tlingit…which bored my boy out of his mind. I felt badly that he didn’t enjoy the tour and wanted to find something he would like for our remaining hours in Juneau.

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We looked at our options and decided to take a tram up to the 1800′ level on Mt. Roberts, where a promise of spectacular views and hiking trails intrigued us. Cornelius could barely conceal his excitement when he saw snow on the ground at the top of the bluff. Apparently there had been a late-spring snowstorm so the trails were still covered in snow. But, we were told, adventurous types could still hike around if they didn’t mind the snow. Despite wearing only a t-shirt, sweatshirt, shorts and tennis shoes, Cornelius begged me to hike in the snow. So, off we went.Image

Just over the ridge from the nature center at the top of the tram landing was another steep bluff, with a series of switchback trails leading to another ridge about 200′ above. The problem was the fact that the entire bluff was covered in several feet of snow, rendering the trail impassable. The only way to scale the bluff and reach “Father Brown’s Cross” would be to climb straight up the face. Cornelius took off running while I cheered him on. He made it about halfway up before losing his momentum and sliding back down. Three times. Each successive attempt was a little slower and more disappointing for him. After his third attempt, he walked over to me, cold (he was wearing shorts) and dejected, almost to the point of tears. I put my arm around him and we took a couple of steps toward the tram area. Then I stopped.

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Mustering a combo of courage and craziness I didn’t know I had, I asked him if he wanted to try one more time. Only this time I would try to go with him. I didn’t know if I could physically do it, having had knee surgery only 8 months prior. He immediately perked up and took off toward the bluff, with me eating some serious dust (or snow, in this case). About halfway up we chanced upon a small hole where we could rest for a few moments. It was there that I began to seriously question myself for doing this. Cornelius must have sensed this because he took off before I could say anything. I managed to get back to climbing just as he reached the upper ridge and started hollering for me to hurry up. Spurred on by his cheers, (I noted how the tables had turned) I scrambled the rest of the way to the top. Once there I was greeted with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. We hugged. We took pictures. We high-fived. And the view of the surrounding mountains, water and city of Juneau was, indeed, spectacular. After a few more minutes to enjoy the satisfaction of our accomplishment we were left with a fun trip down the steep bluff. It was a wintertime slip-n-slide that capped our mountain-top experience.

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Note: This is an essay (without pictures) that I’ve submitted to be considered for inclusion in an upcoming book some friends are writing that’s going to be published in June. If you have any suggestions to help me improve this piece please comment below or send me an email at bigcheesedad@gmail.com.

Thanks, Carl, aka Big Cheese Dad

Bad Dad: Seeking Forgiveness

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Saturday started out on the right foot. I woke up and went to the YMCA to hit the elliptical machine for a 45 minute workout while my wife fed breakfast to our youngest children. Upon my return home I was back in charge of them so she could shower. Without going into the details, some of my older children got into a conflict while I was “in charge”. In a few moments of poor parenting I made some choices that I wish I could take back. But, since there’s no “EASY” button like in those Staples ads, I had to endure the consequences of my poor parenting choices. The peaceful Saturday morning had been shattered, replaced with a tension and uneasiness because I didn’t handle the conflict between two of my children appropriately. I actually caused it to escalate by my actions. With one of my kids crying in a bedroom and another with me in the kitchen while I fed my baby breakfast I began to realize the depth of my parenting failure that morning.

I started to replay the events in my mind, trying to justify my behavior so that I wouldn’t feel so bad about how I’d (mis)handled the conflict. Before I could get too far into that line of thinking my wife came into the kitchen to let me know that I’d royally screwed up that morning. She didn’t say it exactly that way, but that’s the version I’m sticking with. And I knew she was right. Even in my defensive state of mind I was still able to recognize truth. I knew that I needed to apologize to both of my kids for the way I had acted in response to their conflict. As a parent, I’m usually able to keep my cool and respond appropriately. In this instance, I had failed to do that and had failed them. I knew better. And they deserved better. So, there it was. I owed them each an apology.

The good news is that when I was very young my parents taught me how to apologize and seek forgiveness whenever I wronged someone else. The bad news is that I’ve had way too much practice doing that over the years. In all seriousness, though, I’ve learned that most people will accept an apology if they can see and understand that I’m truly sorry. Many are almost caught off-guard when asked to forgive me. There’s a look that they give me that’s a mix of wonder, shock and gratitude. Unfortunately, as a parent I make mistakes. However, each time that I do I try to use it as an opportunity to grow as a parent and to model for my children how to apologize. This time was no different. I went to each child and explained how I had messed up and how I would handle the conflict in the future if it were to arise. Then I apologized and asked forgiveness. It’s especially hard for me to do that when I can see the hurt that I’ve caused in the eyes of my child. Thankfully, each of them forgave me and we’re moving on from it.

I guess that’s the other part of the “forgiveness” lesson I’ve learned over the years. While seeking forgiveness is important, being willing to grant forgiveness is truly the key. I could go on and on about the importance of forgiveness but I’ll try to leave it with this: Forgiving the mistakes of others is the key to happy and healthy relationships. Life is too precious to live in the land of UN-forgiveness.

PS-That’s supposed to be a “bad” or “scary” face. Don’t laugh. It’s the best I could come up with. It’s not like I was planning on blogging about a parenting fail. 🙂

Quotable Kids #4

This is going to be an ongoing entry of things my kids say that are particularly memorable.
1. M, age 3 1/2, recently watched “The Three Stooges” movie with her brother and asked for it again the next day. “Daddy, may I please watch the ‘Three Students’ again today?”
2. Several years ago, while living in Wisconsin, my wife and I told our kids that the two of us would be taking a trip together to Seattle. My then-4 year old asked, “Who’s Attle?”.

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3. My nine year old son asked, “Dad, instead of buzzing my hair with the clippers I have a better idea. Could I burn it off?”. Might need to have him Google ‘Michael Jackson Pepsi Commercial fire’.
4. My kids love the Disney movie Frozen and sing the songs a lot. I asked my three year old, who has seen it in the theater three times, what she learned from it. Her answer was funny. “I learned not to sing along in the theater.”