Honoring Thy Father

Ah boy, this is gonna be a tough one.  I am just like my dad.  This became evident when I was a teenager.  He was so clearly perplexed by me, and I was more than willing to test his limits.  Growing up, my parents were very ‘50’s like.  Mom worked a part-time job, and did all the “woman-stuff” like dinner, laundry, ironing, child-rearing, etc.  Dad worked a full-time job and did all of the “man-stuff” like mowing the lawn, paying the bills, disciplining the children, etc.

He didn’t balk when I wore a skirt that was too short, but was less than enthusiastic when I got a B- on my report card.  He was inclined to grumpiness and was most affectionate and playful with a couple drinks in him.  Fiercely loyal to family and friends, and a man of great integrity.  So proud and strong and brave.

He worked so hard to provide for my mom, sister and myself.  He was a committed firefighter at Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Department and earned the “Lifetime Member” award.  He was a member of the local American Legion named after his father.  He was a proud veteran.  He was the eldest of seven.  He was an avid golfer.  He was an avid bowler.  The hardest part about writing the preceding sentences are two words that still cut like a knife: “He was…”

It’s been eight years since I lost my dad.  I cry as easily now as I did eight years ago when he was called to heaven.  I remember how it unfolded so clearly.  My husband, children and I were at a weeklong church retreat and on our last day, I had called my dad to see if he received the results of a test to determine what had been causing him gallstone-like pain for two months.  He said in a shaky voice that it was cancer.  This was in August of 2004.

Having lost my father-in-law to cancer only 3 months earlier, this was a scary bit of news.  I cried silently, so as not to upset the grandchildren he doted on, and resolved to be the strength for him that he always was for me.  Soon after, I met with the oncologist who educated us and said initial tests indicated this was a Stage 1 cancer.  A couple weeks later, and several tests later proved otherwise.  My strong, hardworking dad had Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

He had radiation and chemo and a doctor that truly tried everything to eradicate this terrible disease from my father.  Dad didn’t respond well to the chemo and had several hospital stays to recover from the effects of this potential ‘remedy’.  Six months after his initial diagnosis, my dad was informed that he had less than a week to live.

Badass that he was, he made it 8 days to March 1st, 2005.  He left a legacy.  A beautiful legacy that I, my sister, mom, son, daughter and nieces will continue to celebrate.

I learned from his life how to work hard, have fun and be strong.  I learned from his death that you can’t take time for granted.

Today, I honor my father with this post and celebrate all that he taught me in that important role.  Tell me in the comments section why your Dad is or was so awesome! Happy Father’s Day all you Dad’s and Father-figures out there.  You will be remembered, make it good!

Is Career Suicide a Result of a Common Parental Mistake?

As parents, we all do the best we can.  Could we have done better? Probably, but that’s just the snotty little voice of retrospect talking. I was raised, and raised my children, to be leaders not followers.  This has proven very effective thus far against the evils of youth: drugs, drinking, sex, peer pressure, bullying, etc.   I have repeatedly heard and said, “Be a LEADER, not a follower!”   So, you ask, what is this HUGE mistake you speak of?   Being the Leader is only half the lesson.  The other half of the lesson is to be a good Follower.  What you talkin’ ‘bout Willis?

Allow me to explain.  It’s great that we teach our children to be leaders and take charge and be assertive and not concede to popular belief simply because it’s popular belief.  However, it’s a bit short-sighted.  Let’s break this down.   Fast forward to your child’s first job or new job. While leadership skills may be admired by employers, followership skills are equally as important.   There are times we need to take charge and times we need to assist and support.

We all have a boss.  This includes CEO’s, business owners and entrepreneurs.  Leadership ability is important to grow and develop, and Followership ability is important for exactly the same reasons.  We need to teach our children, youth and next generation workers, how to follow.  I don’t mean of the “sheep” or “suck up” variety, I mean actively, knowledgeably, passionately, PROUDLY, follow.

One of the most common struggles I see in today’s up-and-comers’ is their drive for big things. Big titles, big money, big life.  Those goals are great, however, in order to achieve them (and sustain them eventually) they need to learn how to be great at small titles, work efficiently with small monies and lead a satisfying life of simplicity, at least temporarily.  Living and learning all there is at these ‘follower’ levels will make these up-and-comer’s better leaders.

Ever work in a company where there were too many Chiefs and not enough Indians?  It ain’t pretty!  It’s like professional “Lord of the Flies”.  Following is allowing someone else to “drive” while you assist in any way that makes their job as “driver” easier and succeeds in getting to the desired destination in an efficient manner.  Take the Daytona 500, the race car driver is the Leader and the pit crew are the Followers.  And before you use this term interchangeably with “Team Player” let me explain the difference.  In a team-player scenario, the entire team would be in the vehicle as they cross the finish line.

As parents, we obviously want our children to be successful in all of their jobs and professional pursuits.  Our kids, like ourselves, have worked for or will likely work for an incompetent leader, but that need not be an excuse for being an incompetent follower.  The lessons that come from that experience will only serve to provide another accomplishment.  While a Leader should be judged on how they develop their Followers, a Follower should be judged on how well they develop their Leader.  Both roles serve the other.

What examples do YOU have that show how balancing Leadership skills and Followership skills have assisted in job or career success?

Mom and Her Cape

My mom drives me crazy sometimes. Just like I drive her crazy sometimes. I’m considered by almost anyone who knows me to be very non-judgmental. We all have our demons, yet I find that I throw the stone a little harder at my mom and the demons she occasionally dances with. Like she’s Superwoman or something. Like she doesn’t have the right to have weaknesses and shortcomings like the rest of us. But see, she was Superwoman to me. So on this Mother’s Day I’d like to honor her by thanking her for her superpowers:

So Mom, Thanks for:

  • Standing up to the neighborhood boys that bullied me even though you hate confrontation
  • Always telling me I was pretty (and meaning it), even when my teeth were bigger than my face
  • Having all sorts of interesting Reader’s Digest Condensed books to feed my need of reading
  • Having a delicious dinner on the table 5 nights a week
  • Letting me bring home any and all friends that made any sort of claim of abuse or neglect
  • Leaving with me through the ‘early exit’ door of the haunted house several years running, even though you really wanted to go through the whole house
  • Letting us build forts in the living room using dining room chairs, every sheet and blanket in the linen closet and laughing with, or providing instructions to, us
  • Teaching us all sorts of ridiculous superstitions, like wishing on a hay filled truck or an eyelash or saying “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit” before uttering any other words on the first day of the month
  • Letting me take the car, even when I was being a snotty, bratty teenager and didn’t deserve it
  • Letting me and the neighborhood kids share our secret hideouts with you that were dispersed over a one mile radius from the house so I could prove my mom was the coolest
  • Not telling Dad so many things, even though you threatened to, just to scare the bejeezus out of me
  • Letting me wear hot pink four inch heels in 7th grade because they were cool, even though I looked like a prostitute
  • Bringing me to the Edmond Town Hall every Friday night to see the movie, even though (I suspect) you knew I wasn’t going to see any movie
  • Telling me I had a great shape (and meaning it), even though I had no boobs or hips
  • Yelling at me and telling me how disappointed you were the entire 5 mile ride home when I smoked way too much pot and was throwing up all over the passenger door of the Buick
  • Teaching me how to drive, and not slapping me, even though you wanted to, when I tried to show off and scare Christina Perry on her bike by gunning it and swerving at her
  • Always telling me how proud you were of me
  • Coming to every single chorus concert and acting like you just saw a Broadway show and only heard my “angelic voice” singing
  • Making sure Dad went easy on me, when me and cousin Michelle broke a neighbor’s TV while pretending to be drunk (seriously Oscar-worthy performance)
  • Being the prettiest mom so I could brag
  • Loving me even when I didn’t deserve it or made poor choices
  • Showing me your “scary mom eyes” in the grocery store with the stage whisper telling me to “just wait till we get home” then doing nothing once we got there
  • Making every holiday such an exciting tradition year after year
  • Teaching me to accept all people and not pass judgment
  • Moving to my town after Dad died, even though you really didn’t want to leave our childhood home
  • Loving me unconditionally, even though I put conditions on showing my love to you at times
  • Teaching me that while you have your own version of Kryptonite, you’re still a Superwoman

Mom, while you may dance with demons occasionally in your human form, I will be heartbroken when you dance with the angels. So let this post in your honor be my flawed human attempt at telling you just how much I love and cherish you and hope to someday, truly be worthy of your unconditional love. Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Mom’s reading this post. For those who are fortunate enough to have their mom’s still here, as well as, those who are missing their mom today, please share your own “Thank You For…” in the comments section.

10 Things You MUST Do In Front of Your Kids

It’s a whole lotta work raising kids, and there’s a lot of pressure to do it right (whatever that means).  I’ve discovered some MUST-DO’s.  Some I learned the hard way, others by luck and none by the “Parent’s Guide to Raising Your Children to Not be Freaks, Morons or Full-On Embarrassments” which continues to be on back-order!  So without further ado, here are my Top 10…

#10 – Show affection – Keep it PG Rated, but let them see hugging, kissing, tickling, snuggling, holding hands, complimenting, laughing or any other displays you are comfortable with.

#9 – Cry – Whether this is because you lost a loved one, got fired or you’re just really frustrated.  Let them see that even grown-ups need to release their feelings through tears.  I know this is a tough one.  I hate crying in front of anyone, let alone my kids, especially since I’m one ugly damn crier.  So while you may prefer the actual crying stage to be solitary, once you’ve got yourself pulled back together, talk to them about how healthy it is to release feelings in a safe and human way.

#8 – Be Health Conscious – Monkey-see, Monkey-do. It’s awesome you tell the kids to eat fruit as a snack and not Oreo’s, unless of course, you’re the one eating the Oreo’s.  No judgment folks, I’ve been there! And while it’s great to suggest they go outside and play, it’s even better to do it yourself.  Kids give us an easy excuse to try something new.  Rollerblading, ladder ball, sidewalk chalk, it’s all better than sitting at the computer or on the couch!

#7 – Give to those in need – It’s all too common to hear people criticize those less fortunate. The scammers and schemers may be out there, but let’s leave them to Jerry Springer.  Show your kids how to give back and to do so without judgment, just love.  Food pantries, street performers, animal shelters, veterans, whatever.  Just show them how to share time or money with those who are struggling.

#6 – Admit you’re imperfect – We work so hard trying to teach our kids to be right. Showing how to gracefully admit making a mistake and own up to it, is one of the best lessons you can give. Also, make it ok to not always know everything.  Teach them how to be resourceful and find the answers to their questions. Resources can include The Bible, the Google or the friend that knows that kind of stuff.

#5 – Talk about work – Including the nasty supervisor, the insubordinate employee and even the backstabbing co-worker.  Teach them how you problem solve and deal with those messy people problems they will undoubtedly experience throughout life.  I’m a firm believer that Business School starts at home!

#4 – Share financial goals and struggles – Kids will learn to save (and spend) based on your example.  Let them feel part of the family team and contribute ideas on ways to save.  Brainstorm crazy-fun things you could do that cost little, to no money.  Camping in the woods, “unplug” for 24 hours, make a meal out of only what’s in the cabinets. Get creative.

#3 – FIGHT – No, not the down and dirty, heavy adult stuff, just your day-to-day spats.  They too, will argue as an adult one day.  You want to show them the right way to do it.  Even if things get a little heated, kids need to see that respect (no name calling) and love (babe, I’m trying to understand your perspective here, but…) should be the base to every disagreement.

#2 – Give love to yourself – just like they play and color and swim, we need stuff to make us feel good too.  As this typically involves time without them, explain why this is important no matter what your age.  This may include personal work-out time, a nail appointment or a hot date!

And the #1 Thing you Must Do In Front of Your Kids is…

#1 – Commit to an established designated family time – For some, this would be a meal time, like breakfast or dinner.  Other options include the 30 minutes before bedtime, Friday nights or Sunday afternoons.  While 5 days per week is a great goal, even just once a week, consistently, will have great affect.  The goal for these sessions is to allow all family members equal time to share verbally.  So if they are excited to share something, have a question or maybe just something cool they learned, this is the place to share it.  Remember, active listening is key during this time.

These work for all ages with minor adaptations through the years. Please test out any that resonated with you and “comment” how they worked for you and your family.  Also share any tips you’ve discovered along the way in the “comments” section.

Miscommunication

Listening is very important! As a person who prides herself on “looking at the Big Picture” I, too, can fail. Here is the story:
7:02pm: My teen daughter is observed viewing her phone with an expression of anger/sadness. I ask her, “What’s wrong?” She mouths, “I’ll tell you later.”
7:36pm: Husband comes downstairs to the kitchen and asks me, “What is that sound, like something being hit?” I reply that I haven’t heard anything and tell him I have no idea what he’s talking about.
8:10pm: I text my teen daughter and ask her to come downstairs and “fill me in”.
8:11pm: My teen daughter comes downstairs and quietly asks, “What’s ‘banging’?” I reply, “Well it depends on the context it was used in, but typically it is a reference to sex or some variation of it.”
8:12pm: My teen daughter collapses over the kitchen counter in laughter. I ask, “What’s so funny? Did you misunderstand a text or tweet, or something?” Teen daughter replies, “No Mom, I was asking what was banging. Daddy heard it too.” Time to get my mind out of the gutter!! 
This is an impromptu post that I thought shouldn’t be wasted. There will be a full post released this Sunday. Hope you enjoy this interim piece!

Lavish Them with Praise

In the wonderful “experiment” of parenting that I’ve been practicing for almost 21 years now, I have found that when given with sincerity, compliments are very powerful for children. This is especially true in an area where the child is unique and different. I know there are theories out there that indicate lavish praise sets kids up for disappointment later in life when they don’t receive it from others.  But I’m not talking about praise for expected behaviors like following parental instructions or not jabbing objects into the family dog’s eyes.  I mean sincerely appreciating them for their good qualities.  Confidence is such a scarcity these days among children, teens and young adults.  If they don’t love themselves, how is anyone else going to find them worthy of love?

My son was not exactly the model student in structured learning environments.  He was not disrespectful, but we would receive calls from his teachers because he would habitually roll and drop his pencil on the floor, for the apparent purpose of having to get up and retrieve it. This and other such disruptive behaviors became common place in his earlier academic life.  So, did we lavish him with praise whenever he did NOT roll his pencil? Of course not, that was expected behavior.  But my son was quite skilled at hitting a baseball, riding a skateboard and having an unusual level of empathy.  These were the things we praised him for, lavishly.  Also, it wasn’t his ability we praised him for as much as it was his dedication to improving his skill or showing empathy to someone less fortunate.  These were aspects he had total control over.  I wish I could say I was blessed with this skill from the moment of his first conference, however, first, I had to let go of my own insecurities as a parent in order to praise him appropriately.  So for the purpose of having a “re-do”, we had another child.  My daughter is a very pretty girl.  Do we praise her beauty? Not so much.  She didn’t DO anything, she just happened to be blessed with an outward beauty.  So what does she “do”?  She generally does well in school, but not from a lack of effort.  She’s very family-oriented and considerate of others’ feelings.  These are the attributes we praise her for.  Lavishly.

Are my kids perfect?  Nope, but they are still awesome.  The best part of all of this is that they are so comfortable in their individuality, that unlike many of their peers, they have no problem going against the grain.  They have made mistakes and will make more, but they confidently march to their own drummer.  They unapologetically embrace their identity. You may be picturing my kids stuffed in lockers and given daily wedgies, but you’d be wrong.  On the contrary, I think others are attracted to them, not because they happen to be good looking kids, but because their confidence shines through.  Thus far, both of them have managed to hold off on the typical “rites of passage” teens typically have explored by their age or at least postpone those milestones until they feel more in control of themselves.  They are totally ok with being “behind” their friends and classmates.  They just own it.  Lavish your kids with praise and help them grow to love and be confident in their own identity.  Tell them how great they are.  Then watch as they conquer the world following their own set of rules!