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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Dad Versus Dude

dad versus dudeDepending upon the setting, there are a lot of terms that can be used to describe me.  At work I hope its professional.  At home it’s usually dad.  To some it’s probably a-hole.  Others see me as a widow.  Some know me as a single (or as I prefer only) parent.  With my friends, I hope its kind of like a good dude they know – but that’s a tough line to walk when you battle dad versus dude.

Labeling things and people tend to make it easy to interact with them, but as you look at the landscape there are many labels we all wear – and usually several at the same time.

I’m dad 24/7.  Even over the summer when the girls aren’t home, I’m dad.  A case in point was last week while I was in California for work and 15.0 was in Canada on a camp trip.  Despite what the American Express Serve website says, it turns out her Serve debit card did not work internationally.  After two calls to Amex, the dad in me had to figure out a way to get my daughter money while she was traveling.  The dude in me wanted to go hit the beach with some work friends.  Both were accomplished, but I had to be dad before dude.

That problem came up during a quarterly business review for the group I report to (the reason I was in California) and was ensconced in a professional setting.  Not a single one of my co-workers knew in real-time that I was handling an issue with one of my kids and juggling communication between Amex, my 15-year-old and the group in the room for the QBR.  Hopefully I was able to be professional and a good dad at the same time.

(The end to the Amex story is a little complicated.  First it took me nearly three days to find someone to actually talk to with the ability to even explain to me what occurred.  It was another day before American Express came back to me with a solution so this problem won’t be an issue again.)

These types of overlapping moments are not the exception – but the rule.  While its great to be able to label and classify people and situations, it’s never clear.  There’s a fine line between divorced and separated.  I hope people see me as a friend, dude and dad who is also an only parent – I don’t want to be a widow first to anyone.

But while you control how your reflect yourself back to the rest of the world – how they interpret those signals is out of your control.  I’m sure there are more than a few who would consider me to be an a-hole.  I’m OK with that.  It’s not something I set out to do (I think).  But it’s their interpretation of what they see based on their lens.  And I’m OK with that.

The reality is I am all of the things I think I am:  dad, dude, widow, only parent, professional, even a-hole.  How you wear those labels though is the way others perceive you.

When it comes down to dad versus dude – I’m OK with being both, probably 75/25 or so.

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