Riding in Cars with Budding Adults

4 10 2016

identity-crisis-300x300

My 8th grade daughter was talking with me tonight in the car. It seems like the car rides are when the best conversations with my kids happen. That’s part of the reason I never really mind schlepping them from one place to another (though that’s my secret).

She asked me if, when I was in school, I ever had any friends that I thought might be gay. I said yes. I didn’t ask her why because it seemed like a pretty transparent question.

We talked a bit more about it, maybe for 5 to 10 minutes with zero uncomfortableness. I told her how different it is now than when I was in school if you are different – not necessarily easier but definitely it seems a bit more acceptable, at least where we live.

Luckily, for me, she is not a boy crazy 8th grade girl. Her friends are over the house right now as I write this playing Adele on the piano and planning a silly dance routine to videotape with their iPhones. I love that this is her experience right now and am very grateful for it.

I didn’t press our conversation any further than she wanted to take it at the time, (something I learned from first experiencing the nuances of teenage-parent relations from her older brother). However, later in the evening, I walked upstairs to her room before her friends got here and told her that I just want her to know that I don’t care who she ends up loving as long as she is happy and a good person.

It was sort of funny because she knew I would do that. She confided she had a crush on a boy a year ago or so but, to use her words, “I have no idea what I’m going to be like.” That is one of the greatest gifts a dad could hear – the freedom your own child expresses when facing her future – a moment free from the never-ending mound of expectations that accompany so many children transitioning into young adulthood.

This is something I am learning to give myself, finally, and if, decades earlier than for me, I can help make my kids think that their sense of self is not something that is given but rather is a given, then I can forgive myself most of the many, many mess-ups I make along the way.

A world of people who feel good about themselves would be a much different place than the one we live in today.

Until next time,

Marc





Feelings (whoa, whoa, whoa Feelings)

4 04 2016
feelings

“Feelings…nothing more than feelings.”

Ok – that title is definitely showing my age (again) but as my son would say, “that’s the deal, yo”.

My son had a friend over tonight and we all had dinner together – me, him and his friend and my daughter. I sat back and listened to them just talk, like normal teens do and I physically felt this tingling rush through my body. It’s the same thing that happens when my kids forget I’m in the car with them and they just are yakking away, in the moment. Or we are on a hike or canoeing – just “being”.

Every time, since they were babies, that I witness my kids just being themselves and interacting with close friends and family, it makes me so grateful to be alive at this very moment. There is nothing that could compare for me because it is pure love. That is what love really is – when you are witnessing those you would die for just being in the moment and embracing the fleeting nature of it all.

I wish I could explain this without sounding hokey or like one of those “new agey” sensitive, ponytail types. I think why it is so profound with kids – mine and those of friends and family I am close with – is that I have this humbling experience of witnessing the development of a whole person. This is something that is remarkable.

It comes during times of profound challenge, too; the group chat that throws your daughter into a tizzy, the bout of intense sadness that overcomes your son for no reason; the realization that you, as a parent, a friend, an extension of someone else, are without answers, helpless and still.

It is all a gift. Each and every second – good or bad. That is the thing that requires pause – to take it in and just be with it and feel it without definition. That is, in the beginning, and I suppose at the end, the most simple and true definition of life and of soul. When those moments arise – and they are few and far between, I am overcome with gratitude.

I am guessing it is easier to be a woman and discuss these types of things but I truly believe that feeling is not an emotion that is particularly aligned with one gender over the other. Just as women still have yet to achieve equality in pay and work opportunities, men have yet to achieve equality when it comes to acceptance in those fundamental and intense emotions that make us human.

That is of no consequence to me. I am just thankful for the good and the bad. The ability, self-acceptance and non-judgement associated with simply feeling is more than worth the struggle of feeling self conscious, embarrassed or ashamed.

A life without feeling is no life at all.

Until next time,

Marc





The Last Time

11 01 2016
PATRICIA HEATON, CHARLIE MCDERMOTT, ATTICUS SHAFFER, EDEN SHER, NEIL FLYNN

I’m looking to also downsize to a small parcel of land with just a couch.

My daughter and I were catching up on the two shows we watch together – Modern Family and The Middle, interspersed with football watching with my son and then a familial viewing of Law and Order (because nothing says bedtime on a Sunday evening like procrastinating with a good homicide).

In the episode of The Middle, the mother, Frankie, has somewhat of a meltdown when her youngest teenage son, Brick, comes back from a shopping expedition with a friend, having bought pants – all on his own. Regardless of the fact that she never enjoyed shopping with him in the first place, this incident sets off a cascade of things that she realizes she will never do with her children again. In a moment of weepitude (yes, I made up that word), she tries explaining to her husband, Mike, that if she had known of all the last times she did things with her kids, she would have paid more attention.

This is a comedy series but the point is well taken. It is so important to focus on new beginnings, big and small, but we rarely talk about the last times. I tend to think in these terms sometimes. For instance, after years and hundreds of baths with my kids, when was the last one? Was there a clear exit strategy to celebrate the movement from bath to shower? Had I known, should there have been? Or when was the last time that I really lay with my kids in bed? I used to do this all the time, for anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes at a pop. Truth is, I could probably still sneak it in every now and then rather than pray that I can even stay up as late as they do half the time at this point.

Today is the youngest you will ever be. You have probably heard that before. This is just a nicer way of saying “this is the last time you are going to be this age, have this day, live this moment, be in this present.” It’s true. There are slew of last times waiting for us, some knowingly and happily (last time I will have to pay a mortgage bill? yeah – I’ll celebrate that one) and most unknowing to us (I don’t want to think about the last time I get to eat dinner on a regular basis with the offspring).

It’s too much to live hour by hour thinking of how to be in what can be a “last time”. It’s not too much, however, to revel in the simplicity and gratitude for what is this time – this time that you sit down to dinner, this time you get to be with that long-distance friend, this time that you get to walk in ridiculously warm weather in January or this time that you get to live with what may seem mundane today but an unreachable longing tomorrow.

Be thankful that there will always be a last time, without which there would be no first times.

Until next time,

Marc





Open Heart (Surgery)

10 01 2016
download
I am trying to open my heart to the fact that this is a schmaltzy image.

My mother had open heart surgery this past week. Nothing snaps you out of the self pity associated with job uncertainty, divorce, financial instability and overall restlessness like sitting 175 miles away in your home while you know the person who gave birth to you is on a ventilator while someone rewires her heart.

My kids and I just returned from visiting her (and my dad) and there were some key takeaways (sorry – that was so disgustingly corporate) – there were some important messages (that’s better) that I felt compelled to write down and share:

  1. Sometimes you have to sweat the small stuff. When I was visiting my parents with my kids just after Christmas – my sister was also there with her family and for all the articles and morning talk shows that insist upon the importance of having those “difficult conversations with your aging parents”, it never happened. Certainly, with the knowledge that my mom’s surgery was essentially a week away, that was not the best time but it wasn’t going to happen anyway. Instead, we played board games, got annoyed by incessant calls to eat more junk food and dealt with familial familiarities, good and bad, that would be of inconsequence to most people (yes, apparently it does matter who takes what food home with them and how much). This is as small as it gets but you know what? It is exactly the type of diversion that helps get through times when the gravity of the situation just seems too great to bear. That’s why I think sometimes (and only sometimes), sweating the small stuff isn’t such a bad idea.
  2. We need doctors. I, for one, have had many dealings with arrogant, self-centered, “cry me a river/claim poverty” U.S. physicians who have lost both their empathy and their perspective but…there are many, many physicians who are saving lives, every single damn day. I don’t give a shit about a single doctor who is interested in making some 50 year-old rich, entitled socialite look 30, but for every single doctor helping with cardiovascular disease, the onslaught of neurological-based diseases and children, etc. – thank you, thank you, thank you.
  3. I am a series of computer programs in dire need of software upgrades. I have written before about the scripts we carry around with us and the self-talk that we do and impacts us, either for better or for worse. As I took a shower in my childhood home, it occurred to me after cleaning it out, that there are tons of rituals I do that have been embedded in me for decades that are in need of a little mindfulness. Let me explain briefly. Since I can remember, the last person who took a shower had to clean out the tub and walls. I have always followed the same pattern: faucet, shelf, top half sides, bottom half sides, little stool, left glass door, right glass door and the shower bottom – in that order – since I ever even had a reason to take long showers (which is code for “a long time ago”).  I did it again this morning (the cleaning, not the long shower) and realized that I have tons of these rituals – some physical, some mental, that I never change. How I react after taking a shower in my parents’ house is one thing but what about how I react after being dismissed in a social situation? My thoughts follow a similar pattern every time – and it’s not good.
  4. Friendship is the #1 most vital component to a sustainable marriage. My mother can give my father a hard time. My father can selectively hear and not hear what my mother has to say. But they are friends, tried and true. It was never more apparent than during our visit this weekend. They respect and love each other in a way that transcends (or is exclusive of) romantic love and at least, in older age, seems to be the vital ingredient to a meaningful marriage (or partnership).
  5. I am so thankful for my kids. We were in the hospital for 6 hours and they never complained once. Mind you – they are on the verge of being 15 and 13. 6 hours with their dad and grandparents – in a hospital – on a Saturday – can seem like an eternity. And they were great. There were cell phones and untied shoes but there was also a tremendous respect and love. I am a lucky dude.
  6. Trump, ISIS, my job situation, Kardashians, cat videos, who got a promotion, who is headlining – they will all go away. Every single second focused on the irrelevant and stupid is a second wasted on the relevant and important. Every damned, single second.

My mother has a ways to go in her recovery. The good news is that her cardiac vitals are very good and if she can take the long-term view, I really think everything will be for the better. It is hard to see your parents age, for both the knowledge of what no one wants to talk about and the acknowledgement of one’s own aging and mortality. But it makes one so thankful for the days that do exist where we have to bite our tongue, sweat the small stuff and think about opening our own hearts a little more, which is a lot tougher sometimes than a 6 hour operation.

Until next time,

Marc





The Kids Who See Me Through

9 12 2015
im1.shutterfly-14

Love.

Whatever type of leader or person is associated with the quality of decisiveness – well, I was not that person today.

After several weeks of trying to first find a way to live with two cats who were problematic from many standpoints and then trying to find a home for them, the plan was to get them to a shelter this evening.

I had planned the whole thing out including the involvement of the kids and resigned myself to moving forward despite knowing how hurtful it was to my two kids. 

My son told me last night that he would not go to the shelter with me. My daughter would cry in the evenings and again in the mornings and I kept explaining how sorry I was for them and the reason why they had to go. I was set. I convinced myself that there are bigger issues in the world and if this is the worst thing they have to go through, then it won’t be so bad. They are strong and resilient, or so I told myself, and as it turns out, it was more than true.

I felt horrible all morning. I barely slept last evening and by the afternoon, I had to take a break from work to walk outside and take a breath. I sat down and decided that I could not go through with it. The song “What shall be shall be” came on iTunes. I took it as a sign.

When my son came home from school and then soon thereafter, I picked up my daughter from an after school meeting, I spent time with them explaining that we would not have to go through with it, at least not at this time. I expected them to run up to me, grab me in a bear hug and thank me with a last minute reprieve for their furry brethren. Instead, what I received was a resolve from both of them that we had to do this for many reasons that were both logical and true. We went back and forth and then both of them spent the better part of an hour attempting to lure them into their carriers, as they are the only two human forms that these cats seem to trust.

They were unsuccessful and at this writing these two cats will remain with me for an undetermined amount of time, which, if I am brutally honest, I fear will be at least until they go off to college. For those familiar with the Serenity Prayer, (which my son reminds me of), the issue of the cats clearly went from the category of “courage to change the things I can” to the category of “accept the things I cannot change.”

This was a tremendous lesson for me, however. These two kids loved me enough to agree to give up their pets, whom they love very much. They talked about fairness to me and were empathetic to a plight that was not their own. I am a very lucky man because there is nothing more affirming than seeing your own children exhibit behavior that is selfless, resolved and decisive – a quality that I, as a much older adult, am not always great on.

I have, and probably never will, experience a truer or more unconditional love as the one that exists between me and my kids. We struggle and fight and even hurt each other, but we understand and love each other and that is really all that matters. I cannot ask for anything more. Despite all that I have and continue to lose, I have managed to hold onto the one thing that really matters.

Because of my kids, I am not afraid – of change, of the unknown, of death. They are the exact type of people I want to know and grow with and as long as that doesn’t change, there is nothing else to really worry about. Now, I just have to figure out what to do about the litter box.

Until next time,

Marc





Don’t Come In

28 10 2015
When else am I going to be able to use an image like this?

When else am I going to be able to use an image like this? It’s a mother, not a father, but we do have the same hair.

I feel like the fact that there are technical difficulties right now as I sit here with my boy watching the World Series is a higher authority telling me to not let myself off the hook for writing tonight. So here it goes.

Tonight, I wanted to write about a text that I got from my daughter yesterday after dinner.

She plays field hockey, which just ended today, and on a weekly basis, a different parent sponsors a “pasta party” where the girls all gather to celebrate field hockey, friendship and homework procrastination.

I usually pull up with the other parents and walk to whatever opening I can find – a garage door, a front door, the back yard – and look for my daughter and her ponytail amidst a sea of other middle school girls with ponytails.

Yesterday, I was given strict notice by my daughter that she would text me when she needs to get picked up, rather than the agreed upon time of 7:30 unless I hear otherwise. I relented since it was the final party and they were celebrating her coach, who was very, very good.

We started our text exchange at 7:35 PM:

Her: “can u pick me up?”

Me: “On my way !”

Her: “k…..tell me when your outside. dont come in” (lack of punctuation excused)

Me: “Here”

Her: “don’t come in”

I’m not sure if you got it but she really, really did not want me to come in. I get it but I had to ask her why? She told me what I already knew – she didn’t want to me to “embarrass” her. (Who? Me?) I get it.

The irony was not lost on me that she and I are on different ends of the spectrum. She is defining herself, setting boundaries as any good teenager should and deciding who gets past the velvet rope and who stays behind. I, on the other hand, am finally taking the step to define myself as I am but saying “everyone come in and see because this is how I roll.” It’s an age thing and for us to take each other’s approach would be more like “Freaky Friday”.

It’s hard as a parent to see your kids silo off where, when and how they want you in their lives. It’s growth and it’s expected. It’s healthy but it’s hard. For me, I have been framing it in a different light, though. It seems that this is another force out of my control that is telling me that I have to think about myself and my needs more, too. It’s too easy for me to distract myself from my insecurities by relying on my role as a father. Being a dad is difficult but it’s also an easy distraction from facing who I really am sometimes. Believe it or not, it’s easier to get all the kids’ games, practices and rehearsals on a calendar than put it aside and force myself to write or anything else that I need to do to move the other parts of me forward.

I am not sure if this makes sense or not. I truly am figuring this all out in real-time, day by day, sometimes minute by minute. I miss those moments of parenting that escape as kids grow up. I am no less close to them, perhaps closer. It’s just the normal independence that all parents hope to see comes with the price of loosing both time with them and those long-lost parts of you that may have existed before they did. Maybe long down the road, we will merge again and when I’m visiting my kids in college, I’ll get that text that tells me where their apartment is followed by “come in.”

Until next time,

Marc





Letting Go

2 09 2015
Maybe if I tatoo my kids' faces on my arm....

Maybe if I tattoo my kids’ faces on my arm….

This morning I sent my son off to Freshman year in high school – at 6:42 in the morning to be exact. Luckily, the haze of my mind that early in the day matched the fog sitting outside my window. I stood at the bottom of the driveway unable to see him at the bus stop only 2 houses away but still able to hear him and his friends to know that this was really happening.

It was perfect actually because had he known that I was standing there watching him as if it was his first day of kindergarten, it would have been a whole different story. A loud, unhappy story.

Like many parents, I take a picture of my kids every year on the first day of school. Today was no different. I posted it on Facebook and upon looking at it, realized what a different body and face I was looking at. This kid is in front of me on a regular basis and I failed to notice, really notice, not only how his body was changing but also how he was morphing into this new version of himself. Admittedly, maybe I have been too busy thinking about my own transition – to single dad – to really take time out and see what is changing with my kids. I’m ashamed to admit it but I’m sure there is some truth there.

I forget that my kids are not just physically aging but emotionally aging, as well. I think part of it is because I still go into “director” mode, ensuring all their needs that they still can’t muster the will to address are met. For example, I still had to wake him up twice this morning, try and find him a folder for his first day, that type of thing. Now, however, I have to juxtaposition that with the fact that while he may still need me for those types of things (hopefully not forever), he doesn’t want to need me. That’s a good thing.

I have to remember the person standing in front of me needs my guidance but I have to approach it in a way that doesn’t make him feel like a child. That takes a) wakefulness, b) patience and c) patience. (Did I mention patience?) Man, that is going to be hard for me. 

I am really excited for him. I know he is going to have a great year. He is surrounded by great friends and I am so grateful for that. I think that is probably the single most important factor in life – who you surround yourself with. It can determine your path in so many ways.

I was kidding with him yesterday that I had to drop him off at school for his first day to make sure that all the “bigger boys don’t mess with my son and that he has a handkerchief in case his nose gets runny”. It’s nice to know that even as I let go, I can always pull the “embarrassment card” and exercise some parental leverage. After all, patience is great but humor is way more cathartic.

Until next time,

Marc

Thanks again for reading. I appreciate it. If you haven’t already, please consider enrolling to get my blog posts delivered straight to your inbox through this site, email me at marckaye91@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter @marckaye91. (Better yet, how about all 3). Also, through October 15, for every new follower I get, I will be donating $1 to Nechama, a disaster relief agency, in honor of my daughter who is raising money and awareness for this great organization for her Bat Mitzvah project! https://www.razoo.com/story/Robyn-Kerachsky/ Thanks again, Marc








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