March 15, 2014

You failed

You played in your third little league game today. In your previous two games, you struck out and then grounded out in your only at-bats. But progress was there and the coaches (of which I am one) have noticed how hard you have been working since the start of the season. Back when you couldn’t catch, or throw and could barely hit. But 8 weeks later, and you’re making progress and the coaches moved you up in the batting order. Today you hit second. And as I watched you from the dugout in your first at-bat, you watched two balls go by that were called for strikes. Then you swung and missed at the third pitch for strike three.

You jogged back to the dugout and your eyes met mine. “Hey, Buddy. You gotta swing the bat on those good pitches.” I tell you. I think it’s helpful advice but I can tell you hear it as criticism. You rest your helmeted head against my stomach and I can’t see your face. I move you away to arms-length so I can see your eyes and when they meet mine again, tears start to flow from them and stream down your dirt-smudged face.

“Oh, it’s okay, Buddy.” I say. I kneel down and give you a hug in front of your teammates. You don’t say anything but I can see the disappointment in your eyes. “Hey. It’s okay if you strike out. Everyone does it. I’m proud of you no matter what. Just try your hardest, okay?” We’ve talked a lot about effort and how important it is to do your best but I can see the doubt in your eyes right now. As if it’s being tested – as if my approval and my love depend on how whether you hit the ball or not. I hug you tight and tell you once more that it’s okay. The inning is over and it’s time to go out to the field. You grab your hat and glove and trot out to second base and my heart hurts for you as you paw at the dirt and take ground balls tossed from the first baseman.

I hurt and I’m conflicted because I have been very careful to frame baseball as something that is for fun and that the only thing I want from you is to try your hardest and learn as much as you can. We’ve talked a lot about this but now it’s being tested.

Luckily, our pitcher makes quick work of the opposing hitters and before we know it, you are back in the dugout. Soon, it’s your turn to bat. I wonder how you will respond but even before we can really see, you get hit on the leg by the pitch and are awarded first base. In retrospect, it’s probably the best thing that could happen. You were on the bases for the first time this season and you eventually came around to score. You were part of the game.

Your third at-bat was with the game well in hand. We were ahead 9 to 1 and there wasn’t a lot of pressure on anyone. There was one out and a runner on third. The opposing pitcher couldn’t find the strike zone and soon, as your league allows, it was the coach’s turn to pitch to you. That coach was me. I trotted out to the mound and I think I was more nervous than you. I only get four pitches and my first three were awful (one was even behind you!). On that fourth and final pitch, though, it was just like you and I at the park near our home. I tossed it in there you hit it into the ground towards the third baseman. The runner on third broke for the plate and you raced towards first. When it was all said and done, you had your first hit, your first RBI and your first big smile while standing on first base.

After the game, in a moment when it was just the two of us, I got down on my knee and I said, “I’m really proud of you, Buddy. After your first at-bat you were feeling terrible but you shook that off and came back and scored a run, got a hit and even made a nice play at second base. I’m really proud of you and I loved watching you play today.”

He looked at me and smiled and nodded. We embraced briefly. I pulled away again and looked into his eyes and said, “I’m really proud that you were able to shake off that strike out today. Sometimes, things don’t go the way we want them to and what we do next is what’s really important. Remember that, okay?” You nodded and smiled and we walked off towards the families waiting for us.

I’m not sure if this day will be a seminal moment but it was everything I was hoping sports would be. Sports are so much more than winning and losing. They are about overcoming failure and learning that failure doesn’t define us any more than success does. How we respond to adversity and disappointment means everything. And I’m glad I was there to help you learn that lesson. You failed. But then you didn’t.

Love, Daddy.

April 6, 2013

It’s a man’s world but don’t just live in it

To my girls…

Someday, you won’t be little girls with ribbons in your hair and stains from Crayola markers adorning your hands. Someday, you will be all grown up and finding your place in this big, yet small, world. This is what I hope for you…

Despite much change, it’s still a man’s world when it comes to getting ahead in life. They shape how much you get paid, what you should wear and how you should look. Don’t buy into that. The most successful women aren’t the ones who accept the status quo – they are the ones that look the patriarchy in the eye without blinking and blaze their own path. I hope that you find the strength to be true to yourself – not to what any man (or woman, for that matter) thinks you should be.

I hope that you grow up not needing the embrace of a man to make you feel whole. I want you to know you are whole now. No man can give you what you already have inside.

But when it comes to settling down (if that’s where your heart leads) I hope you find a man (or woman, for that matter) that each and every day feels damn lucky to be with you. And I hope you feel the same way. I hope you find that person that understands that two can be stronger than one.

I hope you never look at yourself in the mirror and think anything other than, “I’m beautiful.” You are imperfectly perfect and being comfortable with who you are and not what anyone else – men or media alike – says you should be will lift you up when the world tries to drag you down. Be yourself. Love yourself. Nothing else matters.

And while we’re on the subject, I hope you don’t live your life based on what you think others will think of you. Don’t waste energy on what other people think. Chances are, they are too worried about what others think of them to spend too much time thinking about you. Live your life! Be free from the chains of expectations that will yoke you to the ground like turkeys and prohibit you from flying with the eagles where you belong.

And finally, I hope you lift other women up rather than tear them down. There’s room at the top for everyone and for every woman who is where they want to be, there are many more who could use a helping hand. Refrain from tearing others down to make yourself look better. Instead, give a helping hand and realize that your successes don’t come at the expense of others, they come when you are true to yourself and to women everywhere.

Oh, and call your father. He loves you.

February 27, 2013

Daddy’s Fables

The twins asked for a bedtime story tonight. Not a book but a story. As I tucked them into bed, my mind raced to form a story. Something funny? Something with Princesses and slimy creatures? Or perhaps something with a little bit of wisdom attached to it. This is what I told them…

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Gustav. Gustav was just like any other kid. He played with cars and did well at at school. He loved sweets too. But what he loved most was Raspberry Sorbet.

One hot day he was dying for some raspberry sorbet. But he didn’t have any money. “How can I buy some raspberry sorbet if I don’t have money?” he thought. He thought about his conundrum as he walked along the busy road to the sorbet shop. Then, it hit him. “I KNOW!!” he exclaimed. “I’ll dance and sing along this busy road and ask for donations! Maybe I’ll earn enough for some raspberry sorbet.”

But then he began to worry. “What if people laugh at me?” he thought. “What if people think my dancing and singing is terrible and they make fun of me?” Thinking of how others would think of him was making him nervous and scared. But then he thought of how much he loved raspberry sorbet. And how much he loved to sing and dance. And suddenly HE DIDN’T CARE WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THOUGHT! He began to dance and wiggle and shimmy and shake and he DANCED! He started to sing too! His voice overcoming the sounds of the cars at the busy intersection and, before he knew it, people started showering him with money. Coins and bills were dumped at his feet as he boogied up and down the sidewalk and before long he had made a tremendous amount of money.

It was so much money that he struggled to collect it all up. But when he did, he staggered along to the Sorbet Shop and asked the owner if he had enough to buy some Raspberry Sorbet. After counting it all up, the owner exclaimed, “Son, not only do you have enough to buy some raspberry sorbet, you have enough money to buy the whole shop!”

And with that, Gustav bought his very own Sorbet Shop and he ate Raspberry Sorbet whenever he felt like it. All because he didn’t care what others would think of him and he did what he loved.

The end.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. – Dr. Seuss

March 30, 2012

A lesson that cost $1

I am helping TheMonk get out of his car seat in a crowded parking lot.  Lovely wife is helping Swee’Pea and I know I will have to also get GirlyGirl out of her car seat momentarily.  I am always a bit nervous with the kids in a parking lot and I am focused on getting everyone out safely on into IKEA as quickly and safely as possible.

“Excuse me, Sir.” A voice beckons from the rear of our SUV.  “I am hungry and I was wondering if you could spare any money.”

I look over and see a young man with dirty clothes, looking at me.  Our eyes meet and I can see the look of hunger in his eyes.  Often, I question the authenticity of these types of requests.  Particularly from someone who is young and seemingly free of physical disabilities.  But on this day, I think differently.  I think differently because, for the first time, TheMonk is at my side.  I can feel his little eyes taking in the situation as I pull out my wallet and hand the young man a $1 bill.  “Good luck.” I say, because I can’t think of anything else that seems appropriate.  “Thank you.” he says, taking the bill and stuffing it into his pocket.  He wanders away, looking for others who may hear his plea.

I instinctively reach for TheMonk’s hand.  Finally, TheMonk speaks. “Daddy, why did he ask you for money?”

I look quickly into his eyes and I see concern etched with confusion.  “He asked me for money, Monkey, because he was hungry and needed money to buy food.”

“And why did you give it to him?” he asks.

“I gave it to him, Bud, because we are very fortunate to have the things we do and if I can help someone else who isn’t as fortunate, then I will help.”

TheMonk takes this in.  He takes my hand and walks over to his mother while I go to get GirlyGirl out of the car.

The moment is over.  But I hope the lesson stays.

 

January 10, 2010

Fear Can Suck It

I hear her cry out late at night. She should be sleeping as bed time was at least three hours prior. I rush to her room, like a masculine Ms. Clavelle and as I open the door I see her tear-stained face clutching her stuffed kitty as she cries.

I quickly approach and begin to stroke her sweaty, matted hair. I ask her what’s wrong, expecting her to tell me she had a bad dream. Or maybe she has to go to the bathroom. Instead, through her sobs, she exlaims, “I don’t wanna go to school!”

And there it is.

Ever since we began talking about preschool – a real preschool and not the in-home preschool/daycare they go to now, I sensed that Swee’Pea has been scared about going. She is a worrier, that little one. She turns things over in her head and thinks about it until there’s nothing left to do but cry in the night.

I comfort her with soft caresses and I whisper, “It’s okay to be a little scared, Swee’Pea. It’s normal to feel scared about trying something new. But you know what? When you try it anyway, you feel so much better.”

A few more words of comfort and some gentle goodnight kisses is enough to send her back to sleep. And the next day we talk about how we want her to talk to Mommy and Daddy whenever she’s scared because using our words to talk about what scares us makes us feel better so we don’t cry in the middle of the night.

Swee’Pea agreed to talk to us but ever since I haven’t been able to get my own words out of my mind. When you confront things that scare you, it makes everything better. And then I think of all the fearful things that reside in the pit of my stomach that keep me from reaching my full potential. And my words suddenly felt hollow.

How can I look my daughter in the eye, encourage her to confront things that scare the bejeezus out of her, and not do the same myself? I have always promised myself that not only would I never lie to my children but I will always try to be the best role model I can be. So it has to start with me.

Since it’s fairly close to the new year, I’m going to call this a resolution. I resolve to look fear in the eyes and kick it’s ass in 2010. No longer will that nervous pit in my stomach overrule what I know needs to be done. No longer will I procrastinate because the idea of doing something makes me sweat. No longer will fear hold me back and keep me from realizing all that I can be. And no longer will I feel like a hypocrite when I look into my daughter’s eyes and tell her that trying will help the fear go away.

Fear can suck it.

July 16, 2009

101 Words of Wisdom (21-40)

    21. Thank your teachers. They laid the foundation to your future success.
    22. Learn to play a musical instrument. Everyone wishes they knew how to play the piano or the guitar.
    23. Maintain your car. Change the oil, rotate the tires, get scheduled tune-ups. Your car will last much longer.
    24. Don’t let fear stand in the way of your dreams. Fear is a wasted emotion.
    25. Learn to say “I’m sorry.” Apologizing helps make it better.
    26. Find a mentor. If someone is where you want to be, seek that person out and learn.
    27. Learn CPR and First Aid. You never know when you could need it.
    28. Surround yourself with people smarter than you. Be confident in that others brilliance shines brightly on you.
    29. There is no such thing as “get rich quick.” Success comes from talent and hard work. Period.
    30. Become an organ donor. Your last gift will save others.
    31. Always make sure you take time for yourself. You can’t give to others when your tank is on empty.
    32. At work, dress for the next position you want. If you look like you belong, superiors will take notice.
    33. Stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Correct injustices when you encounter them.
    34. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You can count on the fact that 10 years from now you will laugh at your current hairstyle and clothes.
    35. Love with abandon. Holding back when in love doesn’t honor how rare love can be.
    36. Give blood regularly. Every blood donation can help three others.
    37. If someone offers you a breath mint, take it. There might be a reason it’s being offered.
    38. Be humble. Nobody falls harder than the one who thinks he can’t fall.
    39. Admit when you’re wrong. It certainly won’t be the last time so get used to it.
    40. Don’t assume. It only makes an ass out of you and… well, just you.

July 11, 2009

101 Words of Wisdom (1-20)

In a week and a half I’ll be 38 years old. I like this age. I’m old enough to have gained some experience but not too old so that I can’t benefit from that experience. And, as I think of all I’ve learned, I realize that I want to pass some of this wisdom down to my children. So over the next few weeks I plan on completing 101 Words of Wisdom for my children.

  1. Say “Please” and “Thank you.” Being grateful for what comes your way will keep you grounded.
  2. Honor your elders. They paved the way for all that you have today.
  3. Always include time for exercise in your life. In the end, your health is all you have.
  4. Don’t waste time worrying about what others think. A very wise Doctor once said, “Those who mind, don’t matter. And those that matter, don’t mind.” (Dr. Seuss)
  5. Eat sweets in moderation. Short-term pleasure doesn’t out weigh long-term consequences.
  6. Be generous with compliments. They are the real currency of life.
  7. Don’t worry about money. Never spend what you don’t have and you’ll be fine.
  8. Plan for the future. Learn to balance short-term and long-term goals.
  9. Laugh often. Nothing is more therapeutic than laughing out loud.
  10. When meeting someone for the first time, always stand and shake their hand. First impressions count.
  11. Never let anything come between you and your sibling. Family bonds will see you through the toughest of times.
  12. Give to charity. Devoting Time, Treasure or Talent in helping others less fortunate is a great reward.
  13. Never stop learning. When you think you know it all, you don’t.
  14. Take time to play with kids. They keep you young.
  15. Learn to write well. The power of the written word can topple regimes and warm hearts.
  16. Always use your turn signal. It’s like saying “excuse me” when stepping in front of someone.
  17. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Your integrity is one of your most important assets.
  18. Eat a piece of fresh fruit once a day. If you’re living in California, you have no excuse.
  19. Call your mother. She worries about you.
  20. Call your father. He misses you when you’re not around

March 25, 2009

Life Lesson: Self-esteem is earned, not given

I’m a big believer in fostering self-esteem in my kids. I praise them when they do something well. I encourage them when they try but don’t quite succeed. If you ask my kids if it’s okay to give up, they’ll look up and tell you, “We don’t give up. We keep trying.”

Of course, these are just words. And while words are fine action, as they say, speaks even louder. Which is why the first time we played Candyland and Swee’Pea landed on the last possible square before winning and then picked the card with the gingerbread man on it and was sent about 300 squares backwards, her old man swooped in to claim victory without missing a beat. It was beautiful. Dancing and chants of “Who’s your Daddy?!” might have taken place. Swee’Pea took it well, however. She wanted a rematch and whooped my butt the next time. (Stupid licorice square!) Her self-esteem seems just fine.

I don’t mess around in other games either. Hide and seek, for example is game where I own them. Not to belittle them or anything but, my kids suck at hiding. I count to 10 with my eyes firmly shut and I find them in about 3 seconds. Then, when it’s my turn to hide, I hide in the garage where they’re not allowed to go and I get at least 20 to 30 minutes of peace and quiet. Good times.

Finally, the kids fancy themselves quite the little runners and like to race each other all the time. I was a pretty good runner in my day and their mother was a 3-time state champion in track and field. So I know they’ve got some good genes to work with. But just because they’re three doesn’t mean they get to win every damn time, does it? Not when I’m around…

I beat them the next time too.

March 11, 2009

The end of the pity party

I’m a pretty up-beat guy.

I like to experience the joys in life versus the kicks to the groin. I’d rather laugh than cry. When looking at a glass of water, it’s almost always half full (unless TheMonk drank it, then TheMonk’s half full).

Obviously, for the past couple of months it’s been hard to focus on all the wonders of the world when my own world seemed barren and desolate. But that ends today.

Today, I choose to look at all the good that is in my life. Today, I choose to laugh rather than cry. Today I make a choice to live life like I own it rather than living like it owns me. So while there are still many uncertainties in my life I choose to be happy nonetheless.

And I’m upbeat even after learning that my kids lost some IQ points just because I was an old fart when they were conceived. No, not even having stupid kids will get me down today.

Today was a good day. I got to sleep in (Thank you Daylight Savings Time!), I found out my kids aren’t as messed up as I feared, the auction for my YMCA (that many of you helped support) netted over $4,000(!), and I had Golden Grahams for dinner. It’s my feeling that any dinner filled with things that are partially hydrogenated is a pretty darn good meal.

And tomorrow… TOMORROW! I hear that the little punk girl I bought Girl Scout cookies from is finally going to get off her lazy butt and deliver them to my office. AND because the stars are aligning as we speak, I also hear that the two buckets of cookie dough I ordered to support the YMCA Youth & Government program is also coming tomorrow. Life is, indeed, good.

So from here on out, I hope to resonate with joy and love (and possibly chocolate chips). I hope to find humor even when it is difficult. I hope to teach my kids that it’s not getting knocked down that defines you in life. It’s whether you get back up.

And it’s good to remember that even a kick in the nuts can be pretty damn funny. Eventually.

April 22, 2008

“The snail dieded.”

I have avoided the topic of death when interacting with Swee’Pea and TheMonk as much as possible.  I’m trying to decide if that’s called smart parenting or me being a wuss.

Anyway, any time we see something that used to be alive (a dead bug, a dried up worm, Lindsay Lohan’s career) Swee’Pea and TheMonk are quick to point it out.  “What’s that, Daddy?” they’ll ask.

“Uh… Um… Hey, was that Dora over there?” Is usually my reply.

I guess I’m just not ready to challenge the innocence of childhood quite yet.

But somehow, somewhere, my kids have been introduced to the concept of death. (My money’s on those little hooligans at daycare.)  This became evident this week when we backed out of our driveway and the kids turned their attention to the snail that has been sitting on the wall of our neighbor’s garage ever since it hit mid-90s last week.  “There’s the snail, Daddy!” announced TheMonk as we passed the dried out remnants of the Gastropod.

“Yep.  There it is, Buddy.  Say bye-bye to the snail.” I reply as I continue to back out our very long driveway.

Then, out of the blue, Swee’Pea adds, “I think the snail dieded.”

“Yeah.” says TheMonk somberly. “The snail dieded.”

My mind races… How do I respond to this?  What do I say?  How can I torture the little punks at daycare who are polluting my children’s innocence with their talk of dead things?

Time stands still.  I have to say something, though, as the silence is deafening.  They are waiting for my words of wisdom.  They need reassurance from a strong parental figure that while death happens all around us, they will be safe and shouldn’t fear what we can’t control.  I need to wrap them in my parental cloak of love and tell them that everything will be okay.

So, I clear my throat, wet my lips, and say…

“HEY! ISN’T THAT DORA?!”

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