Perspective On The Year Ahead

17.0 and I just got home from the first real college tour – last year we did a one-off college visit to NYU in NY but that (at least in my mind) wasn’t a real tour.  This time we did two of the State University of New York (SUNY) schools that would realistically be college destinations.  While one is still in the running and one is out – my lesson was in perspective on the year ahead.

17.0 is going into her senior year of high school.  For the most part I can recall most of that year (despite it occurring more than 25 years ago.  I really don’t recall such a big focus on the college tour – but that’s a different story.

As we were walking the second SUNY school today, I asked 17.0 what she was looking for on these campuses.  I think I wanted to know what she was using as her yardstick to measure one school against another.

Her answer was interesting – she wanted to measure out the campuses (small, medium and large); find out about campus life and maybe a little about her major.

I would have thought she would be more focused on the school’s proximity to town and what living in a dorm would be like.

Just a differing perspective on the year ahead.

As we were driving home, she asked me for a reminder of when she can go for her senior portrait (tomorrow).  Then she was focused on her yearbook quote.  I can’t even recall mine.  To be honest, I can’t even recall if we had them.

My thought on them though is you need to think about your audience 10 years out.  After all once the school year ends, the yearbook is put away – and comes out right before the 10 year reunion.  I’d like to think experience gives me perspective on the year ahead – but I could be wrong.

I’m going to guess that this year will be eye-opening for me – going through a lot of changes for the first time.  It’s been a while since there was this much upheaval – the good news is, hopefully I learn something by the time 14.5 is ready for her senior year.

That’s my perspective on the year ahead.

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Next Step – Driving

We’re about to reach a milestone of sorts in our house.  17.0 is about to hit the roads as a solo driver.  I’ve purchased a second car, next step is driving for the older one.  Much as I did when I got them mobile phones six years ago – she’ll have to sign a contract of responsibility.

Here’s what I have so far – wondering if anyone has any additional thoughts:

Agreement for Using My Father’s Second Car

The following outlines terms and conditions Teen Driver freely agrees to, understands and acknowledges for use of the second car belonging to my father, Car Owner.  These terms as presented and agreed to should be seen as a contract between Leah and Ethan for use of the car.  Penalties are outlined herein.

Section 1 – Basic Rules

  1. The car belongs to my father, Car Owner, and my driving of it is a privilege I have earned. _____
  2. The car will be kept generally clean and in good running order at all times. _______
  3. The car will be parked either at the top of the driveway with Car Owner’s car having access to get off the drive way first or in a proper overnight parking spot. _______
  4. No more than four additional passengers are permitted in the car. _______
  5. There can be no additional drivers of the car without the express (and situationally) granted permission of Car Owner. _______
  6. House curfew will be strictly enforced. Failure to keep to house curfew will result in forfeiture of use of the car for a period of time to be determined by Car Owner. _______
  7. Teen Driver will follow and obey all traffic laws. _______
  8. Any incident related to the car or its operation will be disclosed immediately. _______

Section 2 – Car Related Costs

  1. Under terms of this agreement Teen Driver will pay monthly insurance costs of $ XX.XX _______
  2. Teen Driver is solely responsible for keeping gas in the car. _______
  3. Teen Driver is responsible for all maintenance costs of the car including but not limited to oil changes, tire rotation, tire replacement and general maintenance. _______
  4. Teen Driver is responsible for any traffic fines relating to tickets or violations. _______
  5. Should any fines or violations result in points on her license Teen Driver will pay any additional insurance costs on a monthly or annual basis. _______

Section 3 – Expected Driver Behavior

  1. Teen Driver and all passengers will wear seat belts at all times when in the car. _______

  2. Teen Driver will not use her cell phone at any time while driving. _______

  3. A ticket for texting while driving will result in loss of driving privileges for a time period solely at the discretion of Car Owner. _______

  4. Driving while intoxicated or under the influence will result in loss of driving privileges. _______

There’s not stopping the next step, driving. But at least she’ll know she has skin in the game.

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Teachable Moments

It’s not lost on me that I just don’t update as much as I did when the girls were younger.  I could say time and commitments are the reason – and probably build a good case. But the reality is when my first post about bra shopping (more than seven years ago) this blog was about my day-to-day as  an only parent of two girls. While that hasn’t changed, my scope has.  We’ve changed from dad and two girls to a dad and two teens.  I do less parenting and spend more time looking for teachable moments.

To be clear, I’m still a parent.  I still get to say, “no.”  But I’m far more effective when I’m able to use a moment to convey a lesson.  It was just last week I realized I’ve come to embrace those teachable moments.

This all crystalized when 17.0 (I can’t believe that either) went to take her road test last week.  I just got a new car, and I had the temporary registration taped to the inside of the windshield.  Honestly, I had never looked at it.  I was just waiting for the regular registration to show up in the mail as it would in the course of business.

However, the road test day showed up before the regular registration – and it turns out the temp was not printed well and arguable the expiration date for the registration on my car was illegible.  Arguable because I was able to read it and the woman at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles office was able to read it – but the tester claimed he could not.

I could see the disappointment in 17.0’s face when the tester said he could not get in the car and take her for her road test due to the registration.  We headed for the nearest DMV office, waited on a relatively short line and got the sticker.  On the way back to the testing area, 17.0 asked me why I didn’t argue with the tester more.

THE TEACHABLE MOMENT

It’s time for 17.0 to understand that there are times it futile to argue with people who aren’t her father – there was no way I was changing the tester’s mind, so I went for solving the problem.

Both girls are traveling with international destinations this summer.  A couple of years ago when the girls were in camp there was a trip to Canada and it turns out their American Express debit cards did not work internationally.

And she passed her road test, wave if you see her drive by you.

This year, both girls are out in the world with credit cards.

THE TEACHABLE MOMENT

Now I’m trying to explain the importance of credit ratings to both girls, and get them to understand they’ll get a bill eventually.

We’ll see how that goes I suppose.

So instead of semi-pithy realities of being an only parent – I’ll try to document those teachable moments now – and a bit about how those lessons are received.

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Independent People Emerge

Artwork from 14.5’s HS art show

It’s something I’ve known for a while but probably didn’t want to admit to myself until I was forced to – and somewhere during the high school art show this week – that moment came:  my kids are truly independent people.

As a parent you watch with some amazement as your children develop personality.  I’m pretty sure the first time we noted that was in a restaurant setting where our kids expressed choices on what they wanted.  You could see it at that moment. Independent people emerging.

This week at the high school 14.5 had a dozen or so art projects on display – and its while I was walking around with her showing me the projects and listening to her describe the assignments – I realized her independent person had fully emerged.

I think the timing was about the same when I realized my older one was an independent person too – but I am pretty sure I never admitted it to myself.

What I mean though is not that I am no longer needed (although that day is coming).  What I see from the girls is they can make their own choices.  They know what they like, and then can express it.

16.5 is an exceptional writer and story-teller.  She can express her thoughts and feelings with symbols and directly.

14.5’s voice clearly emerges through her art work  You can see her expressing herself and her feelings.

Both of my girls are independent people (and they still order what they want when we’re out to eat).

As a parent I have to be amazed and in awe that I can see this.  I think it’s what parents want when they start out – and to see it manifest is rewarding.  Independent people emerged in my house and in their lives.  My hope as a parent is they can nurture their ability to share their expressions and thrive at it throughout their lives.

One day, perhaps they’ll have the honor of watching independent people emerge within their children too….

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It’s Just a Number

This post is a couple of weeks overdue, but life happens sometimes, right? And more likely than not, given how little I pursue my birthday as an event – it probably has something to do with it.  But I am now 50.  AARP eligible.  But when I think about it, being 50 is just a number.

I know a bunch of people – my peers from high school and other walks of life – who have seen turning 50 this year as a watershed moment.  A time to take stock and do a self assessment.  But when I think about it – 50, it’s just a number still.

I look at life as full of milestone moments – if you’re heads up and looking ahead those moments of assessment and self scoring should be ongoing.

What would happen if I hit 50 and suddenly realized my life lacked meaning?  I suppose that’s where the mid-life crisis is born.  But that’s not me.

Physically, with the exception of a cranky hip I’m feeling better than I have in a long time.

Emotionally, I think I’m in better shape than I’ve been in for a while as well.

My kids are doing well – in school, in life and in general.

My career is going in the right direction

So what do I have to look back at and decide I need to restart? I don’t think anything – but that’s through the lens of looking ahead – and staying at a high level of keeping my eyes on the goals of my kids, my life and my choices.

Not to say I would never want a do-over on something here or there – but there’s no need to wait half a century and try to unring the bells.  A friend of mine posted on Facebook this morning a great link about being wiling to say, “I need to start again,” and it’s exactly right.

So 50, it’s just a number.  Now it’s 50 and a couple of weeks.

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Six Years Later – The Snow Day

Through the magic of Facebook, I was reminded this week about some updates made in years gone by about snow days.  As near as I can tell I’ve written about them for six years.  Now six years later the snow day is a little different.

It’s been a while since I wrote here – not that there’s nothing going on.  Maybe its the opposite and too much is going on and getting to the end of the day and then writing just doesn’t happen.  Today wasn’t too different, except during this snow day – I took time to think about the changes in six years.

Flashback to when the girls were 10 and eight.  Snow days were much different.  The day was very hands on.  There was likely a trip to someone’s house (or having someone over), there was the juggle of trying to do work and keep the girls entertained and there was the sense that the day would never end.

Six years later the snow day is much different.  Today really started last night after 14.5 finished her tennis.  I dropped her at her friend’s house with a vague plan of how and when I would pick her up.  16.5 was home all day doing homework and working on prep for upcoming ACT and SAT tests.

I spent the day quietly working (I think I had eight calls and a constant email flow) and making a big pan of lasagna for the next couple of weeks.  Completely hands off to my kids for the day – other than cutting off some lasagna for dinner.

Six years later, the snow day is really another day – it would be nice if the girls were at school, but we all went about it.

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8765 Times 6

RisaThere are 8765 hours in a year, 52,590 of them have ticked off since Risa passed away.  Probably because of the timing, it becomes a strange time of year for me (and I think for my girls as well).  While the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of year,” there are probably more than just me who would stop and question that.  8765 times 6 – there’s a lot to think about.

Who’d have thunk there would come a time I have two teen-aged girls in high school – much less thriving in that environment.  16.5 is in honor roll and 15.0 is pulling a low 90 GPA.  Far better than I ever did, clearly taking after their mom.

Along with a second transition to high school, we’ve (and I say we because it’s been the three of us)  conquered an introduction to driving, a change of sport from softball to tennis, a job change for me and just getting through another 8765 hours with the rest of life’s challenges.

Reflecting this time of year is probably normal – give or take this is when people (who make them) will begin to think about New Year’s resolutions.

I was chatting with a friend who is also widowed – and we were talking about how tough this time of year can be as an only parent where you’re dealing with the family and everyone is happy.  And it’s not to say we’re not happy – but there is a part missing.

What would Risa think about her girls excelling in school? I know how proud I am of it and I know she would be proud too – but what would she think?

And would 16.5 be a different (maybe better, maybe worse) driver if there was another voice offering guidance?  I don’t know.  We don’t have that second voice, and I don’t pretend there is a second voice.

In the last 8765 hours 15.0 made a change from softball to varsity tennis.  She walked onto the tennis court just before Labor Day this year and became a tennis player and has taken to the sport with determination.  I know Risa was a very determined person as well, happy to see she’s taken on the best of the traits.

16.5 entered the working world over the summer and excelled as a lifeguard at a water park near our house.  She embraced the challenge of working and becoming responsible – maturing into a woman.  Now we begin thinking about test prep and college search.  I know those are the parts of life Risa would have cherished, and despite the challenges I know it’s a time I will cherish with her and her sister.

15.0 has also become expressive in art – a skill I only wish I had, but again its a skill her mother possessed.  I can’t help but smile when I walk into her room and see her work on display on the walls.

And because managing life with me and two teen-aged girls isn’t quite challenging enough I decided to change jobs this year too.  It was one of those situations where it was time to make a change and the right opportunity came along – but its in those moments where I try to think through important changes, don’t really have that life partner to talk to and know I’m about to make a life changing decision – the clock slows down, and a few of those 8765 hours feel like days at a time.

I wonder, what would Risa think about all of this?  Am I doing the right thing?  Would my father be proud of life I’ve created for my family?

I’d like to think the answer is yes – because that will help get me through the next 8765 hours and changes our lives will face again.

 

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Respecting Change

Solution 1 2 or 3 Choice Showing Strategy Options Decisions Or SolvingOver the years – as the girls have gotten older I’ve tried to enable them to make more decisions.  Sometimes those decisions are minor (what’s for lunch) and sometimes they are bigger (picking out a dress for a party).  As they’ve gotten older I’ve worked hard to support their decisions – even when I disagreed.   In that I hope they’ve learned about respecting change.

When the girls were younger – in a lot of ways life was simpler.  I would pick the meal, pick the clothes or the bed time.  As they’ve gotten older and become young women – those decisions have been ceded and sometimes with some effort I’ve been respecting change.

Heading into Thanksgiving week is always a mixed bag for me.  Thanksgiving is actually one of the holidays I like.  But it runs head long into the week when Risa passed.  From there we jump into the holidays, and then the long days of winter.

The change cycle though seems to keep moving.  And rather than fighting it, I think I’ve realized respecting change is just as important as realizing it’s out there.

So, 14.0 has given up softball after more than eight years to focus on tennis.  Her decision to make.  I respect that.

So, 16.5 declares her independence with authority.  Her prerogative as teen for sure – and I respect that.

Respecting change is probably a healthy approach – but certainly not an easy plan to carry out.  Day-to-day, with my eyes wide open I try to learn something new from my girls and day-to-day they make decisions – and I try to respect them.

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Driving Lessons

Driving LessonsThis right of passage – giving driving lessons to a teenaged child – is not one faced by single (only) parents – but it’s been a unique challenge for me as an only parent to conquer, I think largely because it involves facing the fact that I have to give up some control.

Thinking back, I can remember the year from when I turned 16 (when you can get a learner’s permit) to when I turned 17 (when you can get your license) as a long year.  I remember doing the math and realizing although it seemed like it took forever to reach 16 (and 17) eventually I would be driving for more years in my life that I wasn’t.

So, I focused on learning to drive – both with my mom’s help and driving lessons and working for just about anyone who would pay me – so I could get a car the day I got my license.  For me, a car was freedom – the same way my bicycle was freedom when I was 10.

Now teaching 16.0 to drive is a whole new experience.

While I like to think I’m not a control freak, keeping things under control is important to me.  There is a definite sense of loss of control when you turn your 16-year old loose (even when you’re in the passenger’s seat and she’s in a parking lot) with your hard-earned automobile.

While I expect her to take a full driver’s ed course over the winter into the spring ahead of her June birthday – I’m trying to teach her how to be situationally smart while driving.  How to make decisions, and not what decisions to make (the model I’ve used for the last 6 years).

But now it’s hard to try to let her make decisions and sit there quietly while our safety (and my car) is on the line.

Slowly we’re getting there.  We’ve been out of parking lots a little and working on practical driving stuff (I’ll leave the technical teaching to the professionals).  And I’m slowly learning my driving lessons while I teach driving lessons to my daughter.

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My Summer School

summer schoolWhile it’s not quite time to start preparing to go back to school here, with about two weeks of summer vacation left for my girls, I can look back at all that I learned over the last eight weeks.  As they get ready to go back to school, my summer school is coming to a close.

Lesson one was (and as if this writing is) 16.0’s lifeguard career at a semi-local water park.  Forgetting the driving and scheduling that I ended up jumping through – I can honestly say I am proud of the work ethic she has shown this summer.  It’s clear to me work ethic is a learned trait.  I saw my mother work hard to provide a home for her three children – and I’ve tried to emulate that.  From my days at Valley Caterers (perhaps even before that when I was delivering newspapers) through my career.

I’m pretty sure my girls have seen how hard I work to make sure they have a happy home to live in – OK, sometimes I remind them too.  They don’t get everything they ask for – but they know that nothing comes without work, and that is a trait 16.0 has shown this summer.

Lesson two came just this week when 13.5 had her orientation for high school.  I have to admit, having them both on the same school schedule will help me.  But 13.5 got into the orientation and took it seriously.  She even surprised me by jumping into fall athletics at the school (she tried out for and made the tennis team).  For her, this is a whole new approach to school – being active and eager.  We’ll have to go over to the school next week to get her into an art class she really wants to take (another sign of her taking an active interest in her education).

I spent a lot of time with her over the last 12 months talking about taking a new approach – no long lectures, no screaming matches.  Just timed conversations that seemingly worked.

Lesson three was also last week when 16.0 took a week off from lifeguarding to return to Camp Good Grief as a volunteer counselor.  This was something I introduced the girls to about five years ago as a way to be able to talk about the loss of their mother.  Both have said their years there were good – and I’m so thrilled 16.0 feels the need to give back a week to help other kids overcome an obstacle they’ve dealt with.

Two weeks to go until first bell at the high school.  I supposed that’s also two weeks to go until my summer school is out.

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