My five biggest parenting mistakes

I checked the calendar on my smartphone one more time. My coworker was running late. We were supposed to meet for coffee early in the morning before our schedules got too crazy. We needed to come to agreement on a key section of our project plan.

He’s normally an obsessively punctual person so I was surprised when I didn’t immediately see him in our company cafeteria and even more surprised when he showed up fifteen minutes late looking flustered with his bag flying behind him and his shirt tail sneaking out of his pants. He apologized and explained that it had taken everything he had to get out the door.

I told him to get his coffee and take a few minutes and we could start when he was ready. When he came back he told me that his 6-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter both had meltdowns and didn’t want to go to school. He ended up making matters worse by screaming at the two of them. Everything went downhill from there.

I told him that I could relate and shared that I’ve had more than a few parental failures in my day. We chatted about our families for a few minutes and then quickly tackled our work issue.

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You’re only 21 once!

I’m having a panic attack.

It’s not your normal kind of attack. I’m not stressing over work or home. It’s not a mid-life crisis. I have no desire to run into work, throw my laptop onto my boss’ desk and get on the first plane to Hawaii or the Maldives or run to the nearest car dealer and come home with a flashy new convertible. I have to admit the trip to Hawaii wouldn’t be half bad.

No, I’m panicking, because in a few days my daughter will turn 21. I’m extremely happy for her, but I’m having a tough time with the milestone. I’ve known this day has been coming. She’s matured in front of my eyes from a bright-eyed, studious high school student to an energetic, passionate, young woman full of ideas and beliefs on how to make the world a better place. She’s mature beyond her years and wiser than some people twice or three times her age.

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Getting good at saying college goodbyes

The inevitable happened.

Several weeks ago, we dropped our middle child, our oldest son, off at college. He’s starting his freshman year and he couldn’t wait to start. As soon as the car was unloaded, he was ready for us to say “goodbye.” And then this past weekend, we loaded up the SUV and drove our oldest child, our daughter, to Washington, D.C. where she’s taking two evening classes and working as an intern.

In the end, it was worse and in some other ways, easier than we thought it would be. I’ve written in the past about the challenge of saying goodbye to our kids. You get used to having your kids in your life and hearing everything about their day and then one day you drop them off and you watch them get smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror. Oh, that’s life, that’s the way it’s supposed to be, we’re adults, we know that, but it can be still be a challenge.

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The wisdom of Solomon

In the Bible, God comes to King Solomon in a dream and offers him whatever he wants. The mind explodes with possibilities: wealth, jewels, power, fame, and status all come quickly to mind.

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If in Solomon’s position, knowing me, I’d probably snicker or take on the “doubting Thomas” role, suggesting that God’s offer had to be a joke.  I would more than likely say something sarcastic like: “God asking me what I want? Yea right, when pigs fly.” I would assume it was a mixture of insomnia and a very active imagination.

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Learning to let go

vials-1781316_640I should be better at this.

My son is attending a science camp geared for middle school students at a local college this week and has come home with stories about the experiments the class has performed each day and some of the antics of the other kids.

I’ve been encouraged by the experiments, not so much by the other kids. In short, some of the boys have been rude to the teacher and other students; played video games when they should have been listening; and misbehaved. The behavior hasn’t been crazy or even extraordinary, just bothersome.

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The art of the negotiation: The shootout at the O.K. Corral

I look him over coldly, head to toe. I pay close attention to the little beads of sweat forming on his brow and the twitch of his hands. He does the same to me. We’re both trying to read each other, to get a sense of the other guy.

We’re two cold-hearted gunslingers from the American Old West. In another time, we would have been in Dodge City, Kansas, or Tombstone, Arizona, facing off in a real life duel. Instead, we’re two men facing off in, well, a mattress store in suburbia.

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He’s a salesman, looking to add to his weekly sales total and push up his commission. I’m a customer looking to make the best possible deal. If we walked outside right now guns drawn, we’d probably get run over on this hot 90-degree day by a pimply-faced teenager fighting for a parking spot in front of the new frozen yogurt stand or by a soccer mom or dad in a huge tank-like SUV going to the LA Fitness gym. Continue reading “The art of the negotiation: The shootout at the O.K. Corral”

A dog’s life!

When she sees us pull up in our car, she gets on her hind legs and claws at the screen door like she hasn’t seen us in years. She’s absolutely giddy with excitement. I worry that she’s going to slice a hole in the screen, or worse, hurt herself. When the door finally opens, she races down the steps to race around each of our feet and then rolls over for a belly rub.

In return, we can’t wait to see Nittany, our tiny Bichon Frise – Lhasa Apso mixed dog. As we hurried home from our trip, exhausted from our hours-long trip in the car, we reminisced about the day we brought Nittany home and joked about how she’s been for my in-laws, who’ve kept her on this weekend trip. When we pull up, we jump out of the car just as excited to see her.

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Who’s got who wrapped around their heart?

In the short seven years since Nittany has come into our lives, she’s managed to worm her way into her hearts. We’re supposedly the human owners in this relationship, but she pretty much has the run of the place.

Who owns who?

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A year’s worth of advice

When my daughter celebrated her first birthday, oh so many years ago, I let out a huge sigh of relief. Despite my clumsiness and failings as a new father, my wife and I and our newborn baby girl had managed to survive. In celebration, I wrote down everything I had learned.

My ramblings fit only a page or two, but they were still hard-earned lessons. I put them in a drawer and forgot about them where they sat for years and years on end until a couple of weeks ago when I stumbled across the worn pages. 

The lessons come across now as dated in spots, but still have the best of intentions. When I think of my daughter I still see her as that precocious one-year-old, even though diapers are a distant memory. In fact, in just a few months, she’ll turn 21. 

In any event, I hope you enjoy. 

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Leaving something for my son

We dropped my son off at college this past weekend. He graduated high school earlier this month and he’s taking two college classes over the summer to get a head start on his degree.

With his bags dropped off in his new dorm room, his clothes hung up and put away in his closet, his desk supplies prepared, and his laptop set up for the first day of class, I wanted to leave him something that would help him through any challenging times he might run into and to remember us over the next four years. I had been thinking about the question for weeks. We had dropped our oldest daughter off at college two years ago. I wrote about that day previously in “The Challenges of Move-in Day,” so I knew what to expect. 

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Finding the middle ground

My wife and I have much in common.

We like to take long road trips. We like similar music. We both like a range of singers and groups from U2 to Tim McGraw, Classical to Broadway, harder edged alternative to even metal. 

And we both like to read for enjoyment, her, mystery and crime novels, me, biographies, historical fiction, and fantasy.

We have one major difference.

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