Posted in Children, Relationships

Children ~ Future Heirs of Imperfection

A black and white illustration of a mother and...
A black and white illustration of a mother and son reading a book on a chair. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good Afternoon All,

A quick recap on life before I delve into the subject of my post.  Since my last post much has changed–as is inevitable in life.  Circumstances beyond our control mix  and mingle with those that we can exercise control over.  As one of those American‘s beginning furlough yesterday, I chose to spend it on the operating table & recovery.  Yes, finally, I was able to have the operation to repair my tendon which suffered a vertical tear on my right ankle back in January when I slipped on black ice.  One of my challenges is to determine what to do with my furlough days (one day off per week for the next 11 weeks!)  besides recovering.

Journaling, blogging, gardening and quilting are on the menu for my enjoyment/entertainment, as well as, as the subject infers spending more time with the family.  I’m writing this post today because of a great article I read from an individual I follow on LinkedIn named Michael Lazerow.  His post was titled “Entrepreneur’s Choice:  Is Your Kid Worth $100 Million?”

I found his article well thought out and extremely thorough in navigating through the thought world of priorities one faces as a parent.  The challenges he addresses are especially important for the entrepreneurial sort of parent(s).  If you are married and one of you has or is planning to operate your own business–be “the boss” then there’s a lot at steak and many choices to weigh.  Here’s an excerpt from his post:  “For me, at least, the hardest part of being a working parent is not the long road trips or long hours or frustrated clients. It’s the internal struggle I fight between two equal and opposing forces – the time I invest creating shareholder value and the time I invest building family values.”

Considering now the thoughts you might have about the circumstance/situation, what are “WE” doing about the circumstances, the questions, and what choices are we making to bring these thoughts into social debate; and useful assistance to those faced with the challenges?  Michael ends his post with the following:  “Ultimately, the best present you can give your kids is your presence. Your full and undivided presence. And, just like earning $100 million, that’s not always easy.  What decisions would you make differently if you truly valued your children more than $100 million?”

As believers in a faith, we “attend” church to congregate with others who practice their faith in similar ways to us.  As writers; we join reading a writing groups; as collectors, we join stamp clubs, auto clubs, quilting guilds, and others who share similar interests…..but where oh where is the group for Parents in our day-to-day rhythms?  Online seems to be the only place where this topic gets the attention it deserves, but its too often a one-to-one relationship (the individual reading the article or post–and the author)  Child Care facilities are hardly the place to meet the need, however, a modification to the model would be ideal if psychologists and other family care professionals were to facilitate.

For those that do work for others, parenting issues are water cooler and lunch room discussions if at all.  Besides your co-parent, who do you talk to, ask questions of, and share these experiences/challenges?  It can only be that much more of a challenge to those who are single parents.

This topic is what I believe a LOT of men could really use.  Parenting isn’t traditionally attributed positively in association with men…. unfortunately our society places topics/activities into gender categories.   A movie with a great plot, relationship intense dialogue, and focused on an individual struggling with a major life issue is put into the category of chic flick.   Ask a group of married men their druthers whether to spend a Friday or Saturday evening watching a chic flick or watching/attending a sporting event or online gaming…most will NOT choose the chic flick–especially if asked in front of a group of guys.

For years I have hoped for/wanted a men’s group that meets to help each other be better men, fathers, and husbands.  I have felt in order to even get attendance, it would have to be a covert operation whereby I started a monthly night our for guys with our home schooling or back in the day when our daughters were younger, at the Twins Club.  I’m going to give it a try with our current home schooling group when I’m back on my feet–but, I just wonder if anyone else out there sees the same thing that I do?  There is power in numbers!  Parents (both men & women) should be able to join a group “FOR PARENTS” without having to pay a “family counselor”…to discuss and share things that work, things that didn’t work so well, and just be able to provide general support for each other.    Most groups that exist are for individual aspects of parenting (La Leche League–for breastfeeding; special needs, troubled youth, etc.)  Support groups need to exist for those without a chronic medical or mental issue, where parents can encourage each other to make better choices!

My wife has done an excellent job as a home schooling mother at creating some family traditions.  Reading aloud to the children during meals has helped to distract the kids from normal “Mom, he’s looking at me!” spats that normally arise from close proximity.  It has worked well and she’s continued the habit–the twins are now almost 18 and our son will turn 14.  It has helped them develop a voracious appetite for reading on their own.  Each Thursday, the kids go to the library and check out new books–they get through and read almost everyone they check out!  They all enjoy the reading time!  So, being able to share something as simple as that little coping mechanism a mom has during lunch times adds to the quality time spent together and teaches many important lessons.

These are the types of exchanges and ideas that can be helpful to new or struggling parents.  Fitting time into life’s schedules to create new/better habits and develop deeper relationships with our children beyond the logistical or parallel entertainment (TV watching) is what parents crave/need.  You don’t know it until you experience a pocket of it here and there…but when you have those moments, its like a “I could’ve had a V-8!” moment.  But we must consciously chose  to reprioritize HOW we spend our time and then develop consistent habits.

Children need and find structure comforting, even if they don’t seem to be appreciative, boundaries are what gives children a sense of stability and trust for their environment and caretakers.  If we don’t provide it for them, they will seek it out, even if it comes with great risk.  I’m interested in hearing your thoughts about choices you’re making to improve your quality time with children/grand children; or even with establishing a group for the purpose of becoming a better parent.

The practices we put in place (or don’t), the traditions we build (or don’t), the value we create (or don’t), the choices we make (or don’t) all end up being the legacy we leave behind.  Whatever you do (or don’t) are behaviors your children witness and observe (learn) internally as a way to do life–most proudly pass on to their children these behaviors and choices (both good and bad). What example are you setting?  Whether you like it or not, parenting is teaching, and what is taught, is learned and carried on to the next generation!

Cheers All!  Again thanks to Michael Lazerow’s post about parenting to help trigger this post!

 

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Posted in Relationships, SocialMedia, Uncategorized

Pay It Forward ~ Family in Need

IF YOU READ THIS STORY & ARE TOUCHED BY COMPASSION, even if you cannot donate, please repost, retweet, or share this story through your social network. This is a great family and their need is immediate!

All,

First off, for those who have followed me and interacted with me on social media over the years, you know that the most I ask of followers are responses to questions or opinions about what I write.  This post hopefully will help a family stay in their home, keep the kids in school, and help a mother get her child in need get through surgery and recovery.

When I retired and moved back to Nebraska in 2005, we attended church with a great family, the Alabis.  The Alabis are from Togo Africa.  Mr. Alabi was a doctor in Africa.  Because of political turmoil, they fled the country and found their home in Omaha, Nebraska.

Their children sang in the church choir with our daughters.  My wife often picked up their children on the way to church.  The children’s choir director Ms. Karen Johnson, is the piano teacher for our daughter Megan, and a couple of the Alabi children.  Ms. Johnson just conveyed to me this afternoon that Ms. Alabi’s daughter, Kween, has a tumor in her spine and must undergo surgery this coming Friday.

Here’s the verbiage she sent to me:

Kween Alabi is a 5th Grader at  Prairie Wind School in Omaha, NE.   She likes reading, dancing, playing the piano, and hanging out with her sister and two brothers.

Kween has been diagnosed with a 5-inch tumor inside her spinal cord.  She is scheduled for surgery Sept. 7.  Her prognosis will be unknown until after surgery.

Kween’s father is in Togo, Africa, attempting to re-establish the medical practice he left in 1999, and he is not yet able to support his family.

Kween’s mother will have to quit working for at least 3 months to care for Kween, and the family will have no regular income.  Although Kween’s medical expenses will be covered by Medicaid, and the family will qualify for assistance, it will be inadequate to meet their expenses.

The Alabis are in danger of losing their home.

Kween and her family need your help.  Fundraising activities are being planned, but much more will be needed in the months ahead.

Donations can be made to:
The Kween Alabi Donation Account at any
US Bank (e.g. 222 S. 72nd St., Omaha, NE 68114) or you can donate at Fundly http://fundly.com/the-kween-alabi-fund

for more information email: kjpiano@cox.net or phone Karen Johnson (402) 558-3027

Thank you for reading and sharing this story to help this family!

Cheers,
Ed

Posted in Relationships

Part 2 – What Does it Mean to “Be a Family?”

Part 2

Well, the results are in.  I printed out these three questions from previous “Part 1” of this blog post for each of my children to answer.  Their responses have been included with minor editing:

  • What does it mean “being family?”
    • Response 1:  “Having a loving connection of understanding and compassion for another human being. Having a spiritual connection with another person(s) that helps you learn to better yourself and just plain learn.”
    • Response 2:  “Being connected to each other, caring for each other. Being a group of related people who share in each others interests and passions, and supports each other in them.”
    • Response 3:  “Its more than being related to individuals by blood.  Friends may care for you, but they don’t nurture you like family does (unless you live with friends because of a bad family).  Family teaches you about home, how to live & work with others, and dealing with the world around you.”
  • How should people in a family behave toward one another?
    • Response 1:  “Trustingly, compassionately, lovingly, and understandingly.  Not like your families are strangers because they share something special that you wouldn’t with someone else you don’t interact with.”
    • Response 2:  “They should be responsive and attentive to one another.  Not to mention respectful and open.  When they’re involved in things that family does that the person doesn’t like doing, they should do it with their best attitude.”
    • Response 3:  “Kindly.  If there’s a problem, everyone must cooperate on how to fix it instead of setting it aside and telling people to “get over it.”  They should consider the feelings of others in all situations.  They shouldn’t discount someone because “that’s just the way he/she is.”  Every member of the family needs to know that he/she is loved.  A family member’s dreams and aspirations should be explored, not put down.  Everyone should feel like they belong and if they don’t, they should be brave enough to talk about it.  Everyone should be open to discussion and debate because in a family, everyone’s ideas should be heard and considered (even if they aren’t always accepted.)  But most of all, each member should treat each other well so that when kids head off into the big world, they have people to comfort them and a place where they’re always welcome.”
  • What can/should you expect by being a member of a family?
    • Response 1:  “Being able to communicate with another on the deepest personal and spiritual level that you wouldn’t be able to with any other person.  To be able to express yourself without being ridiculed.”
    • Response 2:  “I expect to be heard when I’m speaking without interruptions and with full acknowledgement.”
    • Response 3:  “Being considerate to others, having good common sense. More importantly, getting a good start in the world, because when you grow up with people who love you and treat you well, they give you almost all of the lessons of life you’ll ever need to know:  kindness, patience, helpfulness, confidence, tolerance, love and a bunch of other good things.

I was very touched to read their responses.  As a parent, one of the best things you can do is get into the habit of asking questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” response.  You’ll never understand how they are connecting the dots about relationships, much less the world around them, unless you involve them in discussions/thoughts you want them personally exploring.  Another reason why, as much as parents need a break…its time to banish “the kids table!”  Inter-generational conversation is necessary to gain healthy perspectives in the world.

To conclude from my last post what I could have stated before returning to work: “Okay, we know that mom has just recovered from being sick…she’s still not 100%!  Please be aware of her needs, and look out for her.  One of you take care of the dishes, all of you work together to make lunch and prep supper, everyone pay attention and be responsive to your mother so that if she needs you to do something, she doesn’t have to go looking for you or try hollering to find you with her sore throat.”  Instead, I assumed that three teenager’s focus would be to automatically be in that frame of mind.  If you read “Positive Discipline for Teenagers” you’ll know that’s just “not normal.”

I realized that all too often, just because our spouse/partner is a colleague in that aspect of life,  they are competent, and independent enough to take care of things—but if there are two parents, neither should feel alone (Cinderella Syndrome).  Being a family is truly a team activity!  Like football, chess, or any other game of strategy, you must be vigilant and remain aware of all activities at all times.  The individual parts of the team can fail if not supported and integrated with the others.  Communication is critical to success!

Due to generations of societal/gender behavior “norms” women tend to take care of too much (of the load) for the family, and men tend to “stay out of the way” (and help out only when asked/told/nagged)  This paradigm suggests that the woman is always the strategist (planning, preparing, predicting, investing, etc….)  This key aspect of the core relationship for keeping the family a “true family” must be shared.  Men, don’t forget your ideas can be helpful, your strengths are different but just as useful.  If you’ve made mistakes with your “involvement” in the past, talk with your partner acknowledging that you may not always get it right, but that you want to share, you want to help, you want to participate.  But if you are serious about being a better husband, father, friend….you’ve got to get your head in the game–this game…the family.

Family can be and is fun…but not if you’re fighting it.  Yes, family means giving up “me time!”  You can’t just continue all of your normal pre-children habits (unless you want a relationship that suffers fracturing).  If you chose to have children, that choice isn’t the end of your obligation/necessity–it is the beginning.  If your perspective on what it means to be family is all twisted around, look for other real life quality examples–they are around! Husbands, you are necessary, especially as fathers and the example you set for your children about what it means to be a man….to be family.

This post was just as much for me as it was for anyone reading who feels convicted.  Seriously, we have to get our heads in the game–think about your partner and ask how you can help.

Cheers to all, and thanks for reading!

Posted in Relationships

What Does it Mean to “Be a Family?”

Part 1

This is the question I posed to my children tonight.  It was an interaction with my wife today that made me realize that in some ways, I’ve been negligent and haven’t done the greatest job at being a nurturing partner.

My wife was sick last week!  Remember, she’s the stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of our three children!  In her usual way, she said she’d be fine, she knew that I have a lot on my plate with my full-time job and pursuit of my degree in Business!  I said “That’s why I accrue sick leave…to take care of family; nonsense, I’m staying home!”  Last week was the week she had chosen to begin the kids school year (we homeschool year round to be able to accommodate for times when either she or the kids are ill, if a crisis arises in the family or we want to take a short family vacation.)  Anyway, I ended up taking two days off…one was definitely not enough!  She still wasn’t completely recovered, but feeling better than two days before.

She, like many stay-at-home moms, has a passion for our children and tries her best to ensure she’s providing the best education for them. Due to my past military career, she learned to “go-it-alone” for so long that she doesn’t often ask for help for anything, and she always puts the needs of everyone else ahead of her own.  Where I failed on the nurturing end is, she still wasn’t at the top of her game, and I didn’t leave any instructions for the children….several things I could have stated (like most men, I assume too much!)

I won’t reveal the things I could’ve/should’ve said because I want to wait until we have our family meeting and hear what the children have to say about my question….but the experience and a few other interactions with my wife recently has caused me to think about what being a family means.

My mind raced quite a bit this afternoon pondering this question–weaving together bits and pieces from books I’ve read about relationships, parenting, family, love, and loss.  So, I’ll just leave you with these questions and look forward to your responses.  Stay tuned!  Later this weekend I’ll share with you the answers my children shared and the conclusions I’ve come to that I plan to share with my family during our family meeting later this week.  Here are the questions I’ll answer in Part 2!

  • What does it mean “being family?”
  • How should people in a family behave toward one another?
  • What can/should you expect by being a member of a family?
  • In your own family, do you feel that you’re doing everything you can to help your family be at its best?
Posted in Education, Relationships

Got Man Points?

A man and a woman
Image via Wikipedia

This message brought to you as a result of my daughter asking, “Is there such a thing as “Woman Points?”

     One really can’t answer that question without first asking “What is the thing about “Man Points?” As much pitting against the genders as there is coming from both sides, I wouldn’t be surprised whatever the answer was of who started this ridiculousness in the first place.

But it does beg the following questions:

Who came up with the rules?
What are man points (or woman points?)
How do you gain or lose points?
Are there differences based on culture/geography?
Are there certain times where the rules and conditions are suspended/ignored?
Who’s keeping count anyway–is there an invisible point balance following men around?
How do you assess who has how many?

      Anyway, I took a stab at what I could intuit would be cause for gain or loss of man points.  This intuition/recollection of course being the result of a couple of decades mixing with other adult males and listening/observing comments and criticisms made by men about other men:

Gain Points                                                    Lose Points

Hunt or own a gun                              Cook better than a woman
Follow or play sports                           Like or do any crafts 
Fix your own automobile                     Still live with your mother
Go to bars & check out women           Comment on a woman’s clothes
Drive a truck                                        Focus on clothes color matching
Scratch yourself or spit publicly           Clip coupons/go “sale” shopping
Open doors for women                        Clean up after yourself
If you don’t fuss over your looks        Spend >5 minutes on appearance
Responsible but socially clueless        Squeamish or too picky

     I did some Google searching and found out there’s even an iPhone “app for that!” http://themanpoints.com/index.php The sad thing is it that it is a “tracking application” for keeping count of how many good deeds you’ve done for your significant other–pretty pathetic if you ask me.  It even will produce a report for you on your “ManPoints Statement” so your good deeds don’t go unrecognized.  What!!!!  Not only are you not man enough to do “WHATEVER” is your responsibility to share around the house or parenting, it sounds like you need to schedule yourself for a chest implant to pin your points on!!??!!

Here’s another stab someone took at defining what a real man is:  http://www.askmen.com/money/mafioso_60/98_mafia.html in an article titled, “Top 10:  Traits of a Real Man.”

     My thought is that we lose opportunities to learn and grow as individuals when we prejudge others based upon differences in how our gender is expressed through appearance, verbal patterns, culture or gestures.  Sometimes it is difficult to become accustomed to extremes or unique expressions, but underneath it all…we all share the same basic human needs/desires!  If you make the personal/physical investment in time to commit your life to another human being (especially if kids come into play) then you owe it to each other to share all responsibilities equally to the greatest extent possible. 

     Twenty years ago, there was a difference between women’s work and men’s work due to societal ignorance and stereotypes but with the advent of the industrial revolution, and companies like Craftsman and Black & Decker (and others), there’s nothing stopping either gender from accomplishing great things indepently of each other or as a team.  Also, any male with a mind and a heart in the right place can learn to nurture and care for children and hearth with as much devotion and commitment as any woman.

Ladies please, give us some honest feedback concerning this topic!

Posted in Relationships

A Gender Betrayed

Women may agree with an assessment I’ve come to conclude–men just aren’t ready for marriage or committed relationships until they’re at least 30 years old or so.

The seed of these thoughts emerged while I was showering this afternoon after my treadmill workout.  And please forgive me, there may be exceptions to what I speak, however, I’ve yet to meet one:  A man, who is a true asset, a compliment to his wife, mature enough to journey in lock-step with his bride–without causing grief, sadness or disappointment – regularly.  Maybe its circumstance, maybe a combination of a lack of instruction, poor communication skills, or that we’re really as fragile as the fairer sex are accused of being?

When I reflect on my own relationship with my wife, I can honestly say that I wasn’t fully prepared for the reality of dealing with young children.  I knew that I wanted a family, and was in love with the idea of being a dad, but man is there a lot of work, repetition, and challenge with caring for our young.  NOTHING in life, except experience prepares you for the reality of being one hundred percent responsible for the care and health of another human being!

labrador puppy at age 2 months
Image via Wikipedia

During the child-rearing years of family, both husband and wife, dad and mom need to be a team–on the same page!  Too often because of the tolerated and accepted stereotypes of testosterone carriers, we’re let off the hook, excused from particular parenting chores and responsibilities because we’re ‘not used to it’ or ‘not as good as it.’  The new world of parenting and navigating the emotional landmines of decisions often lands squarely on the woman.  Late nights with sick children, taxi service and household management when the husband is away on business trips; more on her plate.  The laundry service, the menu planning, cooking, baking, doctors appointments, clothes shopping, parent/teacher conferences, enrollment in clubs and athletic teams…it never ends.  Parenting is the boot camp of independence for many women who learn in the school of unfair and hard knocks that they can stand on their own two feet and don’ t need a man to be a success.  Frustration is the bitter wine shared between the lonely stay at home mom and the dad who all too often puts self before the family.

In many respects, we’re like a young Labrador pup!  You know how they are?  Running through the house, playful, cute….and destructive!  Lordy, the trash isn’t even safe in a home with one of these best friends!  One morning, you’ll awaken to find your favorite slippers torn and soggy; or groggily walk down the stairs to get your morning coffee and step into a pile of puke on the last stair step.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re fun, look adorable in pictures, even more serene and attractive when asleep.  The commitment level associated with the care of a young pup is a long-term endeavor.  Notice any parallels ladies?

While finishing up my shower with these thoughts racing through my head I felt great compassion for my wife and this same story that is being played out on life’s stage throughout the world every day.  It DOESN’T have to be this way, but it won’t change until our theories and instruction for future generations are shown that gender is not an excuse for poor communication skills, respecting boundaries, being consistent or holding true to our commitments.  I really think the whole marriage vows practice should be re-examined and revised, that interpersonal relationship skills should be a course taught in school and required for any couple who find out they’re expecting!

I have four older sisters, have been married for almost 19 years, and have two daughters and one son–been surrounded by estrogen my whole life–and think I have the inside scoop!   I believe that civil society would be better off worldwide if both genders were on equal footing.  Guys, we have so much to learn and much work to do within ourselves.  It’s not all about toys, fun, fame, power or control!  There’s a deeper purpose and meaning to our existence, its time we explore together and help each other be better men.  Our wives and women worldwide deserve it.