Tag Archives: parenting

Going Home

I get to go home tomorrow.

Hopefully.

Assuming the weather cooperates.

I’ve been on the road for five days. If all goes well I’ll get home late tomorrow evening.

Five days is probably peanuts to a lot of the “road warriors” out there that travel for their jobs, but I’m ready to go home. I drove to tonight’s stop for 2.5 hours through a mixture of blinding, white-out snow fall and slick dangerous roads, to short periods of sunny skies and clear roads. It would switch from one to the other about every couple miles, typical of Michigan or probably any other place in North America in the winter these days.

I’m in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan for the night. My knuckles are still white from the two hour grip on the steering wheel as I tried to avoid sliding off icy roads. For dinner I ate a McDonald’s Southwest Salad and I’m drinking a cheap bottle of wine scored at the local Wal-Mart a ½ mile away. ( I suddenly wonder how often the word “wine” appears in my posts?!?)

‘Cause remember, work travel is a romantic and sophisticated thing!

The blood is slowly flowing back into my knuckles.

Not to get back on the local motel thing, but I’m in the most adorable little local motel I’ve ever stayed in. I may have to get on Trip Advisor and leave a five star review. Outside there is an epic snowstorm, crazy, blinding, accumulating snow… at least the last time I looked. In the back of my mind I’m thinking if there were anywhere to be stranded for an extra day this would be a fine place.

But I’m ready to go home.

I’m seriously ready to go home.

I want to sleep in my bed. I want to hug my wife. I want to see my kids. I want to see my goats.

In a few days I’ll have forgotten anything about this trip like so many before. The next one will be on the horizon to prepare for. This was a successful trip and the next one will be too.

That’s what I do.

The hardest part for me is the leaving, the walking out the door.

Sometimes I have to talk myself up, like Stuart Smalley.

“You’re good enough, you’re smart enough and doggone it people like you.”

Once I’m on the road though, literally five minute later, driving down the road, the salesman shows his big handsome face and I’m like “YEAH BUDDY LET’S GET THIS SHIT DONE!”

So I get it done.

Can you say “Jeckyl and Hyde?!?”

A loud dose of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” through the car stereo helps. There isn’t a set of car speakers out there capable of playing this song at an adequate volume.

When I’m gone, I don’t think it’s easy at home. My wife definitely notices, suddenly a single parent for several days. My kids? With their crazy teenage lifestyles, sometimes I seriously wonder if they know I’m gone.

I hope they do. I really do.

But when the time comes I’m always ready to come home.

To sleep in my bed. To hug my wife. To see my kids. To see my goats.

I get to go home tomorrow.

Hopefully.

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Psssst… George, you’re killing us over here.

Clooney

George, c’mon, seriously?!? You just said all that gushy, romantic shit on TV? At an awards ceremony no less? Dude, what the fuck, did you not read the handbook they gave you when you got married? C’mon, it’s the handbook… THE HANDBOOK… and you were supposed to read it! But obviously you didn’t. Or maybe you just skimmed through it like some kind of savant and thought “whatevs, I got this, I’m George Fucking Clooney.” But you should have read it… especially the part about not showing up all your fellow men in front of other women… especially millions of other women!

The morning after the Golden Globes my family and I were sitting around with the TV on and all the stations were recapping the highlights of the previous evening’s festivities. I didn’t watch the awards, it doesn’t really interest me. Maybe the rest of the family watched some of it, I don’t really know. But the highlight among highlights was apparently when George Clooney got up on stage to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award and after thanking a bunch of people he (more or less) said this:

“So congratulations to all of you for having a very good year. I’ve had a pretty good year myself. Listen, it’s a humbling thing when you find someone to love. Even better if you’ve been waiting your whole life and when your whole life is 53 years. Amal, whatever alchemy it is that brought us together I couldn’t be more proud to be your husband.”

Upon seeing a short recap of this part of the speech that morning, my 14 year old son turned to me and jokingly asked “Dad, how come you never do that for Mom?”

I smiled and listened closely for the inevitable chortle from my wife.

“Do what?” I answered.

“Give a romantic speech like that” he said, egging me on.

I thought for a minute and then replied with the best I could come up with. “Well, I guess because no one has ever thought I deserved to receive a really prestigious award like that.”

“That’s because you don’t” chimed in my 17 year old daughter with a smart-ass smirk on her face.

Wow, tough crowd!

Look, I can dress up nice and “product” up my hair and stand around and look handsome with the best of them. But I’ll admit, I’ve never been that great in the “romance department”. Apparently a lot of guys aren’t if you take a long stroll through the ROMANCE section at the local Barnes and Noble.

But what really is romance? Is it what you see on the screen at a movie theatre? Is it what you read in a $6.99 paperback you found in the book section of a Wal-Mart? Is it pouring your heart out at a gala event of overpriced celebrities while our materialistic, gossip driven world watches in awe?

Perhaps on rare occasion it’s those things.

Or is it climbing onto the whirling carnival ride of life with someone you love and frantically pulling down the security bar… a ride that starts slow but before you know it is moving and spinning and you’re hanging on for dear life through weeks and months and years of changing shitty diapers, not sleeping, driving to a million of your kid’s sporting events, lifting them up when they’re down and guiding them to places you’d always felt you should have gone, celebrating victories and mourning losses, working endless hours to pay endless bills, watching family and friends battle illness and tragedies and everything else the world wants to fast-pitch, 90 miles per hour at you on a daily basis… only to be the happiest two people on earth when you’re given ten minutes at the end of the day to share a glass of wine and talk about anything other than the carnival ride that’s just stopped for a short moment to let a few people off and welcome a few new people on.

“Three tickets please.”

No author or screen-writer is making a living off of that story. Maybe no one is even writing that story. But maybe that’s what romance really is.

Had I actually been watching the Golden Globes, when those words poured out of Clooney’s mouth like an oversize serving of mushy cream-of-wheat being scooped from a cast iron cauldron into a cereal bowl, I imagine I would have heard the collective swooning sighs of millions of breathless women and the sounds of flapping pages as all of the Nicholas Sparks books sitting on shelves lifted off in unison and began flying around houses like doves at a royal wedding.

That’s a tough act to follow.

But it’s fiction. He’s a celebrity. He’s not real life.

I have nothing against George Clooney. I like him as an actor. He’s probably a great guy and he gave a speech that evening that was honest and moving and inspirational. He’s certainly one of the most handsome celebrities around right now. MAN is he fucking handsome! He seems compassionate and whether you agree with his politics or not, he actively uses his fame and wealth in many philanthropic ways and I respect that.

He and his new wife have probably just climbed onto their own version of the whirling carnival ride.

The toothless “carnie” is standing in the control booth with a pocket full of tickets, ready to push the start button.

George, you need to read the damn handbook…

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The Tree of Life

Two years ago, just about this time in early October, I wrote a post called the Tree of Life and dedicated it to my son. It was on a day similar to today, the onset of autumn and days filled with deep, healing breaths of cool, crisp air and the beginning of falling leaves. I stood this morning in my kitchen, staring out the window, with a steaming cup of coffee in my hand and watched a leaf fall from the large Maple tree that sits outside our house. That same scenario, an autumn leaf falling from a tree was the spark that got me to my keyboard two years ago to produce what is one of my favorite posts on this site.

My kids both have milestone birthdays coming up in November. My son will turn thirteen and finally be a teenager and my daughter will turn “sweet sixteen”. I’m so proud of these kids and what they’ve become. Of course, what responsible, loving parent isn’t proud of every step forward their children make in life? But also, like many of you reading, years of guiding our kids in so many directions can take a deep toll on our levels of patience, understanding and compassion.

I’m not always at my most compassionate these days. My wife Kim used to say I had “the patience of Job”, whoever Job is… and she was right. I did and many days I still do. But I’m also a “You’re injured? Wrap a bandage around it and quit moaning”, kind of parent. Last evening my son was an absolute train wreck after weeks of seventh grade classes, daily football practices, Boy Scout events, and on top of that not feeling well. I wasn’t mean or angry with his “call for help”, but I certainly didn’t offer up what would have been most helpful; a strong hug from Dad and some therapeutic compassion. We got home about 8:30 pm and he laid down directly on the mattress of his unmade bed and was asleep in minutes.

Children are resilient little beasts and this morning, all was well again and he was mostly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as much as a twelve-year-old can be at 7:00 a.m. in the morning. Shortly after the kids left for school, I stood by that kitchen window, with my steaming cup of coffee and watched that leaf fall. It reminded me of my Tree of Life post and reinforced to me that although my kids may be rapidly approaching adult hood, they are still just kids who are trying to find their way in the world, trying to please their parents and teachers and friends and looking for guidance from the adults in their lives.

They are kids climbing the Tree of Life in search of that perfect autumn leaf that they can ride to bigger and better things. As adults and parents, we are that tree and though we often have to fight through the storms that life throws at us, it’s those storms that remind us, always in a most timely fashion, when to dig our roots in just a little bit deeper.

If you weren’t a follower back in 2011, here’s my story: The Tree of Life. I hope you enjoy it.

The Tree of Life

Once upon a time there was a tree.
And it grew in a beautiful place in the country.
The tree was tall and had deep roots and solid branches and green leaves.
And it was a proud tree.

One day a boy began climbing the tree.
And he knew that he wanted to climb until he reached the very top.
So the tree carefully guided him from branch to branch, higher and higher.
And the boy felt safe and loved.

The boy continued climbing the tree, a little higher every day.
And as the boy climbed the tree, the tree provided comfort and protection.
Its leaves gave the boy shelter, its branches gave the boy structure.
And its roots gave the boy a solid foundation to build on.

Then one day the boy finally reached the top of the tree.
He was excited and the tree was very proud of how far he had climbed.
But the tree knew that the time had come.
To let the boy go.

So the tree said to the boy.
“My leaves are changing colors and the wind is starting to blow.”
“Find the biggest leaf you see and climb on it and close your eyes.”
“And the wind will take you wherever you’re supposed to go.”

The boy looked to his right and to his left and up above and down below.
And finally, at the very, very top of the tree on the very highest branch.
The boy saw the most perfect leaf he had ever seen.
And he climbed onto the leaf and closed his eyes just as the tree had told him.

Soon the wind picked up and the boy could feel his leaf trembling.
He grabbed on with all his strength to be sure he wouldn’t fall.
And then he watched as the stem of his leaf began to break free.
From the tree that had nurtured him for so many years.

The boy was excited to be free and on his own.
And as the strong wind carried the leaf high up into the air like a magic carpet,
The boy turned around and waved goodbye to the tree.
And it was a proud tree.

Soon the boy was far enough away that he could no longer see the tree.
So he turned back around to watch where the wind might be taking him.
All around, the boy saw the amazing opportunities the world had to offer.
And he settled in for the ride of his life.

The wind carried the boy to mystical places and magical lands.
On exotic adventures and extraordinary challenges.
Through happiness and sadness and love and hate.
And wins and losses and successes and failures.

As the wind carried the boy he felt exhilaration and freedom.
He began to learn to control the leaf and take it where he wanted it to go.
And he grew and gained knowledge and insight and experience and wisdom.
And felt as if he could fly forever.

But eventually the boy grew weary and wished that his leaf would finally land.
And he remembered what the tree had said when he was first set free.
So he closed his eyes just as the tree had told him.
And the wind began to slow down and change directions.

When the boy opened his eyes, the wind had carried him back to the country.
There was the tree with its deep roots and solid branches and green leaves.
As the boy smiled at the tree, the wind blew one last burst.
And he landed safely right at the base of the trunk.

The boy was happy to finally be on the ground.
He knew that his leaf had fallen right where it was supposed to have fallen.
And when the tree looked down and noticed that the boy had grown into a man.
It was a proud tree.

For my son, who is climbing his own tree and will someday have to be let go.

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The End of an Era and the Tooth Fairy

I’m concerned that we’re running out of cool things that we can lie to our kids about.  There used to be all kinds of things we could lie to our kids about.

For example:

“The stork delivered you… in a sheet… that he carries in his mouth.”

“Daddy and Mommy were just wrestling… on the bed… naked.”  Just kidding, I’ve thankfully never had to pull that from the repertoire.

And of course the MOTHER OF ALL LIES…

“Santa Claus brought you all that stuff… in a giant sack… that he carries in a sleigh… with flying reindeer.”

This all came crashing down the other night when my son lost a tooth. Now, granted we had already put on the “life schedule” that this would be the year that we tell the 11 year old son that there really aren’t any fat people in red suits or giant rabbits or leprechauns or fairies or anything of the sort that break into your house and leave you stuff in the middle of the night. In fact, we wanted to be perfectly clear that any people coming into the house in the middle of the night, whether that be through a chimney or a broken window or a busted down door, were likely sordid characters that were much more apt to be taking stuff from the house rather than leaving anything of value.

So our son loses a tooth on Friday evening… and Kim and I are lying in bed and she is doing the usual routine of cutting out a tooth shape from a sheet of paper, signing it in the tooth fairy handwriting (which I have to say looks very similar to the Santa Claus handwriting) and putting it and a couple bucks into a plastic baggie.

ME: And why are we still doing this?

HER: I’ll talk to him this weekend.

I have to say, Mom’s rule the roost when it comes to stuff like this, at least in my family, although I suspect it’s that way in most families. Sometimes I wonder, if I had been a single Dad would my kids have had all the experiences with holidays and birthdays and special events that they’ve had with Mom around doing the vast majority of the work. Or would I have said “look son, I know you’re only three years old, but this whole Santa Claus thing… it’s a ruse, how about you go out and get a job to help pay for all this stuff.”  I guess I probably would have stepped up but it likely wouldn’t have been quite as magical!

Saturday morning arrives and son is a couple bucks richer. Mom pulls him aside… it went something like this.

MOM: Can I talk to you about something?

SON: (probably thinking he’s in trouble): Sure?

MOM: Do you know who the tooth fairy is?

SON: You?

MOM: Yes, do you know who else I am?

SON: Santa Claus… and the Easter Bunny… and the Leprechauns… and…

And that was it. No shock and awe. No tears. No traumatic lifelong psychiatric issues. How long had he really known? When our daughter was told a few years ago at about the same age, there was lots of crying involved… even though, you know what? At a certain age, they know. In the backs of their incredibly intelligent little minds, they know… or at least they suspect. They’re just not ready to doubt anything their parents say… and in the long run, that’s a good trait to have.

As emotional as it can be for parents to move beyond those precious years of childhood innocence, I have to say, we’re ready to take the next step. Actually we’ve already taken the next step… we’re there. Sometimes it feels like taking a step off a cliff, but that’s what a family is all about, finding our way through life’s challenges as a team. I love where my kids are right now, they’re so talented and interesting and independent and funny as they dive deep into adolescence and teenager-hood.  Our daughter will be starting High School in the Fall, our son will be starting Middle School. It’s a big transition year and I am completely confident in their continued ability to stand out and shine.

So, now we’re running out of cool things to lie to our kids about.

My daughter will be learning to drive sometime during the next year or so…

… perhaps I can lie to her about that.

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