This is love, yo (a Poem for my kids – but not yet)

18 07 2017

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I recently posted this to twitter and reposting it in an easier-to-read format.

I wrote this about being a dad to two teenagers. Maybe you’ll recognize something familiar.

This is love, yo

Me on the chair

Reading a book

With you at the water’s edge

It’s ok

Pretend

I am a stranger

Yes, you may be too old for this

Me, too

But this is how it has to be for now

One and three quarters eyes on the page

A quarter on the base of your feet

The only thing I can see in the bottom periphery

As I try to maintain attention

On the biography I am reading

Because this is love, yo

And certain to the touch

Is the odd teenage reaction

Of bending your neck so I may receive the back of your head

Sweaty, matted hair

As a surrogate hug to say good night

I will continue to comment

“Is that all I get?
Because this is love, yo

Encapsulated by a love that is beyond romance

As if it existed before you were born

Before I was born

When the universe was born

Streaming through our bloodstreams

Like quarks and stardust

Crossing paths again

For the first time

In 7 billion years

Because this is love, yo

That maybe only a parent can understand

Though understanding is a falsehood

Does an addict understand the pull of the drug?

Does a mother goose understand the urge to attack an innocent runner

Passing by knowing that

Time is finite?

This is love, yo

And when I pull up that phone for a photo

For the thousandth time

I know the rolling eyes

And guttural objections

Are only a way of expressing what is a disturbance in your day

And painstakingly

Here you are

Because I had to only endure a slight glance at a camera with a flash

That my mom never adjusted as I grew taller

For a handful of photos that all ended at my bottom lip

And now I can’t help but chronicle every glimpse in passing

Though a smile from you in just one of them

May cut down on my need

This is love, yo

And when the trying turns to hope

And the talking turns to prayer

And the seeing turns to memory

All we have is what we had

And all we had is what we were

To each other

Me to you

You to me

Us to each other

Because this is love, yo

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Riding in Cars with Budding Adults

4 10 2016

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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





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





A Tribute to Fathers who “Work It”

21 06 2015

You don’t have to be a father (or even a male) to be that “go-to” person for someone in your life – a special someone, a friend, relative, co-worker – even a stranger. This Father’s Day – acknowledge and celebrate that part of you and feel proud!

As a tribute to my own father and others like him, I am re-posting an article I wrote for Working Mother magazine 2 years ago. Happy Father’s Day to all those dads who are really working it! – Marc

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Picture courtesy of my favorite daughter.

WORKING FATHERS

By Marc Kaye (as written for Working Mother – June 2013)

This Father’s Day, I’d like to pay tribute to Working Fathers – those men who help many a working mother. In particular, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my very own working dad – let’s call him Bernie (which is coincidentally his name).

Now, Bernie is no Mike Brady. He’s no Ed Bundy, either. Bernie is just “Bernie” and as such, he’s good at imparting valuable lessons to his kids by just being himself (Lesson #1).

In all transparency, this is not a man without his flaws. His propensity for dismissing expiration dates on everything from barbeque sauce to antibiotics as simply “a suggestion” coupled with his ability to nestle within each other different size plastic containers into what can only be described as a cheap man’s version of Ukrainian nesting dolls leave something to be desired. However, beyond that, if you were going to design the perfect dad, you may say my sister and I hit the jackpot.

Let’s not beat around the bush (lesson #2) – when we hear “working mother”, working is often an adjective, referring to as “having paid employment.” When I refer to “working dad”, working is the noun as in “the inner workings of being an engaged dad.” In the former, the focus is on the mother who also works. For the latter, stereotypes often assume the reverse – the worker who also parents. Not so with my dad.

It is interesting to read so much over the past few years about the increasing roles of dads when it comes to raising kids, helping with homework, managing the household and generally being an equal partner with the mother of his children. It seems that society, though still with a ways to go, is catching up to my dad and others like him who have been doing this for the past 40 years. Yes, indeed, these men exist and they are no less “breadwinners”. They, like many women are faced to do today, have also made deliberate choices that were hard, gut wrenching, mature and necessary at the time. These men are unassuming, quiet, reserved and focused on their families. It’s about keeping things simple (lesson #3) and as balanced as possible (lesson #4).

I have learned, as a dad myself, that this is truly hard work. The “father” in “working father” never goes away and that makes the “working” part so important because it’s not a job, it’s a life.

It’s hard to live up to Bernie. This is a guy who does everything on his own. He had a full time job, had a family, was a true son to his in-laws next door, not to mention his own parents, cut the grass, helped build our house, and can seriously fix almost anything. I mean, please…can I catch a break? (After all, this is about me, right?). I can barely get my son’s Lego Star Wars Commander ship to stay together. I know I shouldn’t compare myself to anyone (lesson #5) but I mean, really – c’mon!

As good as a dad as this guy was, he is an awesome grandparent (along with my mom, his partner in crime – and by crime, I do mean the crime of slowly killing me as I watch my kids get away with everything, and I do mean everything, that was punishable by death to me and my sister as kids). My kids really looks up to him – particularly with respect to his corny sense of humor that only the Catskills set could truly appreciate. This is a guy who says what he does and does what he says (lesson #6).

So, on this Father’s Day, let’s take a moment to celebrate Working Dads – whether in the office, at home, driving the bus or taking time to write a silly blog post – these are the guys that are “working it” hard and taking the “Father” part of “Working Fathers” as seriously as the “working” part. (That could have been better worded – Lesson #7).

We love you Dad and to all the Father’s out there – Happy Father’s Day! With that, I’m going to get out of here before I overstay my welcome (lesson #8).





Attachments

17 05 2015

linus-and-his-blanket-e798f1a5e4a17df1

My wife left me and my house almost a year ago.

When people left my life in the past, I used to internalize it to the point where I had convinced myself it was because of me and solely because of me. I remember in college, my roommate sophomore year wanted to room with someone else and my first reaction was how it was going to look – me having a room all to myself in the dorm. (Little did I realize how much I would grow to cherish alone time, but hey, I was 18.)

It is embarrassing to admit that someone chose to leave you – whether it is a friend, employer or in my case, my wife. She got to leave our house and literally start over – to the extent someone can – new house, new furniture, new location – not a single immediate reminder of our lives together. Meanwhile, everywhere I looked was a reminder of the life that used to be – from our bedroom furniture, through the pictures on the wall to the spot certain foods were selected to sit in our refrigerator.

Things are far from finalized and in the meantime, I had promised my kids to stay in the house. I would love to sell this one, all the furniture, wall hangings etc and just “start” over but between living in flux right now, saving for my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, a summer vacation and ridiculous legal fees, that is not going to happen.

More importantly, I felt (and heard from my kids) that staying put was one less change that they would have to deal with and I know inherently that they are comfortable here. That being said, it has been a struggle for me personally to feel like I can make it my own in some way. Besides removing some cheap artwork from the walls and reorganizing some closet and drawer space, the place looks largely as it has in the past. While eager to eventually make it feel like my own, I realize that my attachment to the “things” that occupy space is largely in my head. I can choose my thoughts which inform these attachments.

Let me explain. For almost a year, I sat at the same seat at the kitchen table – 4 neatly placed placemats for the 3 of us to eat our dinner with – the 4th as a noticeable absence, yet interestingly enough, a sense of ease for my kids that it is still at the end of the table where it always was.

Today, I decided to sit in that spot to do my writing and my work. It doesn’t have to be “her” seat or anyone’s seat. In fact, when we have friends or family over, which is quite often, we end up sitting in different seats than our own anyway. In addition, as I look out the window, it has given me a different view than the one I am used to.

Our attachments to things are largely about the memories and perspectives that we bring to them. While our memories are embedded, we can bring new perspective to these things and that is a good thing.  You may have heard the familiar mantra of “change your attitude, change your life”, which, for me at least, is much easier said than done. Perhaps, attaching a new perspective to a familiar object is the first step.

What attachment do you have that may be holding you back?

Until next time,

Marc

Thanks again for reading my blog. I’d love to hear from you in the comments section or email me at marckaye91@gmail.com. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter @MarcKaye1.  Please pass this along and subscribe!





Leaving Your Old Life Behind

5 05 2015

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I have been deliberately not thinking about the future lately – or at least my future. I think a lot about my kids’ futures – will divroced parents put them at a disadvantage for establishing healthy relationships themselves? Will the world they inherit be a healthy one, mentally and physically, and be empathetic to their individual struggles? Will I help guide them to find their true north and be authentic to who they are and find their passion but still be able to instill upon them the importance of practical work?

I listen to TED Talks via podcast (and recommend it if you don’t already) and heard one titled “Champions”, focused on those who have accomplished amazing feats of strength and willpower, such as Dyan Nyad the 60+ swimmer who swam for 53 hours straight from Cuba to the Florida Keys. These stories are amazing and the one that really got to me was that of Amy Purdy, the paralympic snowboarder, who went on to almost win the entire Dancing with the Stars competition. Her story was heartbreaking and inspiring – an avid snowboarder who, at the age of 19, lost both legs (among other things) to meningitis. In the interview she explains that as devastated as she was, at some point she realized that she had to leave that old Amy behind and focus on the new Amy.

I had a similar experience with a young woman from Wisconsin who, after a horrific car accident, was on life support, not being given even 24 hours to live, now living with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). She is still living with a TBI and in her interview, she, too, said that she wished friends of old would get to know the “new her”.

I find this type of self awareness fascinating. It is not mired in pity but acceptance. This is something that I need to learn myself. When I first confessed, right before the new year, to the fact that I am going through a divorce I ended my blog post by simply stating that it is just another descriptor to who I am.

Things are not always neatly packaged. Most of my friends in my age group are married, and happily, I hope. I see a journey that mimics what I thought mine was – raising kids, fixing up the house, posting family photos of vacations and milestones on Facebook, etc, etc. That was me. That is the “old Marc.”

The new Marc is a single dad who is having new experiences with his kids, enjoying comedy and friends more than ever and struggling through this journey day by day. My struggle is one of millions and not so bad. When you’re going through a divorce, every guy you meet seems to have a wedding ring on. But, we all have our own journeys and we all have many descriptors. At some point, maybe leaving the “old you” behind is a chance to reincarnate in this life and what emerges may be a “new you” that was always there but not able to emerge in the first place. Be forewarned, though, while you accept the “new” you, it may not be as easy for those who know the “old” you.

Here’s to whichever “you” you are. Embrace it, accept it and take stock of your purpose.

Until next time,

Marc








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