It’s Not A Popularity Contest

There are times – and I think it’s more now that my kids are older than when they were younger – when parents have to make a decision and the outcome is an unhappy child.  We know what call they want – but it’s not a popularity contest, so sometimes they’re just not happy.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve run afoul of expectations of both of my girls.  While I can see their point of view on the issues in question – I’m comfortable with my thought process and decisions.

When the girls were way younger a temper tantrum would ensue, and that would be over quickly once they realized the low impact it had on me.  In the tween years, there would be a more sustained protest, perhaps even an attempt to argue.

But in the mid-to-late teen years – there’s a whole different approach, I’m not sure if its intentional or not – but now I deal with passive aggressive, displaced anger and the occasional dirty look.

But the lesson I learned probably the day 17.0 came home from the hospital in Boston – its called parenting.  It’s not a popularity content.

It would be great for my kids to applaud every decision and I’d love to be hailed as a hero every time I say, “No” to something.  At least in my house, that’s just not the way it works.

So, I’ll deal with a few dirty stairs and try not to laugh when one takes out their anger on the other knowing it’s aimed at me.  I’m a parent, not a politician – and it’s not a popularity contest.

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Plotting Course

Lost in thoughtFrom the earliest days of my journey as a single parent one of the realizations I had was there will be many times when I’ll be facing decisions big and small – and not the ones that are made on the fly – that couples would normally talk out.  Yes, there are no shortage of people I can talk in these moments – but making decisions that will impact my kids is still different on my own.  But life demands plotting a new course at different points.

Sometimes talking out loud helps.  Other times making lists helps.  Sometimes pulling on the running shoes and turning up the music helps.  Then the decision is made and it’s time to tell the girls.

And reality sets in.  That hard decision isn’t even a blip on their radar.

Such is the case.  The important part is everyone understands and is on board, as we like to say in corporate speak, “We’re all on the same page.”  More often than not, it helps.

In those moments I wonder what it will be like for the girls when they are faced with these decisions.  When they have families and have to plot a new course.  What will their process be?

I can see 15.5 taking to writing and hitting the gym (sounds familiar right?) and 13.0 sketching and cooking (some of that is familiar) to work through the angles and get to the decisions.

The decision made, the course plotted – a weight lifted. We continue our journey, mostly happy and predominantly on the same page.

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A Road Not Taken

The Road Not TakenWith all due respect to Robert Frost, today when I reached the point where the road divided – I took the one I had not taken in the past.  To understand this road not taken, I have to think back to one of the first posts ever on Dad The Single Guy, The Training Bra.

Back in early 2010 my then 9.5 was about ready to need a bra, but needed some time to think about it.  So, I let her do her thing while I got ready to go bra shopping.

Two roads diverge in the yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Fast forward to late summer 2014, and my nearly 12.0 is ready for her first bra.  Just as I let the then 9.5 call her shot in 2010 – 12.0 called her shot this time, and asked her sister to go with her.

Then took the other, just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

This time I would stand aside.  I did check with now 14.0 to make sure she wanted to do help her sister – and then I dropped them at the store and headed for physical therapy (my pinched nerve) and let them go at shopping.

An hour later, having followed my road not taken, I returned and the three of us went to dinner.

Yes, we all reach cross roads in life every day.  Some are notable, others are simply forks in the road – but we make a choice on the roads taken and the road not taken.  Today, the road not taken was the right path for us.

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Opinions, Perspectives and How We Carry It

OpinonsA couple of times over the past week I was struck by how we form opinions based on perspective and can even invoke those opinions simply based on how we decide to carry that moment.

In one case, a newly single mom I am friends with is struggling with the art of the juggle, those moments a single parent just has to roll with the changes and adjust on the fly.  It’s part skill, a lot of art and some luck mixed in.  It’s easy to sit outside the bubble and offer opinions.  To be meaningful I think (aside from being sought) they need the right perspective.

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In another case, with the looming start of Passover at the top of the week I had to quickly juggle plans for night two seder at my house when an unexpected meeting popped up late in the afternoon on Tuesday.  Yeah, I can play the, “I can’t make it due to Jewish holiday card.”  But in this case, based on my perspective of the moment in time and how I want to carry it, I adjusted the seder.

One of the toughest things for me to do is pretend I am an expert, or even knowledgeable enough to share my opinion.  I struggle hard enough just to keep my house in order.  As I tell my friend, I’ve been at this a while, so while it may look easy it’s not.

But that’s just perspective.  Maybe I am a reluctant expert, or maybe my perspective lets me carry it that way.  I’m not really sure to be honest.  It maybe one of the reasons it took me more than two years to actually publish my book The Beginning of the Middle of the End of the Beginning, because who am I to offer up advice to anyone.

Well, I’m someone with opinions-a lot of them and some perspective on how I form my opinions.  Perhaps more importantly though, I know how I want to carry it and it helps me filter when I take in other opinions.

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Single Parents and The Missing Sounding Board

Lost in thoughtThere are times in life when you are confronted with a decision-and its the kind of moment where there are potential long-term impacts.  The reason I am writing this today is because I am at one of those moments-the good news for me is it’s a win/win so whichever decision I make the positives far out weigh the negatives.

That said though, one of the things I like to do is talk through the positives and negatives.  I may not need a lot of feedback, but just a sounding board, someone to point out if I have missed any details.  For me, it’s easier to talk to someone who knows my situation.

The last time this came up, I actually sat in my wife’s hospice room, and although she was not communicative at the time, and I am not sure she even heard or understood what I was saying, it still helped to just say it out loud and hear myself talk through it.

Since last night when the call came in (and it was a call I was expecting) I’ve realized there is no one right now for me to walk through this with.

Yes, there are people who would be more than willing to listen and ask the questions-I have no doubt about that.  But there really is no one who has the total picture, and knowing myself there is no way I will have this conversation multiple times to hear it out.  I even tried to have it on a high level with the girls this morning, but that didn’t really go too well-and they really tried.  They were focused though in the wrong places, and I can’t blame them, their focus was on what it would mean to them, and how I would feel.

So as best I can, I will apply all of my over-thinking skills to this one, go through it all with fine detail and probably reach the conclusion I reached last night immediately after the call.  Until then though, I’ll be deep in thought.  Shhhh.

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The Fine Art of Timing

In two separate moments yesterday I was able to quickly make a good decision and a not so good decision-and as I spent time dwelling on both (and over thinking it) I came out OK.  Not completely happy, but definitely not unhappy with my performance.

Sometimes I wonder if single parents are more prone to this kind of over thinking, since there is no sounding board there.  Its me alone with my thoughts.

The first chance to make a snap decision came when I found out 10.5’s softball game was cancelled.  Of course this notification came 10 minutes after the scheduled start, 2.5 hours after I ran out of the office and 45 minutes after I raced home from the train station, pick up the girls and made it to the game on time.  Needless to say, I could have used the notice the other team got-because no one from that team was at the game.

It would have been pretty easy for me to really go off on the league rep who was sent to deliver the news (umpires were at the game too).  I had not yet fully decompressed from running around, it was hot, I was still wearing work clothes.  Instead, I went the high road.  I let that sit with me for a bit, and ended up sending a longish email to the league voicing my displeasure in as clear and dispassionate way I could.

Of course, I have not heard back from the league, not even a “thanks for your email, we’ll get back to you” email.  Which could easily be another issue if I let it become one.

Later last night, after dinner and quick run to the supermarket, 8.5 went into the back yard to have a catch.  She wants to try to be a pitcher.  This is the moment where I ended up not overly happy with myself.  She and I work hard on throwing and throwing to the right place.  After listening to several odd excuses on why her throws were not going where she wanted them-everything from the ball slipped, to my finger hurts, to my finger nail got in the way-I tried to offer her some help with her pitching form.

She started telling me again how her bad throws were not her fault-and I ended the game.  My thought at the time was after the afternoon I had, I really did not need attitude on top of everything else.  She stormed off and slammed a door.  I decided to sit on the couch, watch some baseball and pretend nothing happened.  Not much, but its a strategy.

Eventually she came down in her PJ’s and we finished out the night.

Now, I am trying to wrestle with if I took out my frustration with the league on 8.5 and did a bad job of channeling one issue away from the other.

Timing is a skill and an art form, to be practiced diligently, and in my case apparently thought through before, during and well after.

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