The Next Great Debate? Or A Sign of the Times?

teens-staring-at-phonesI’m not a massive fan of the humor/satire site The Onion, but an older video from their site recently made its way to my Facebook timeline – and I was thinking that could easily be me (maybe without a discussion on euthanasia of course).  The surgical attachment of devices to the hands of my teen-aged girls – is this the next great debate? Or a sign of the times?

From The Onion archive story tells the story Caitlin Teagirt a 13-year old who is reduced to simply rolling her eyes and grunting because of digital addiction.

To be fair to 15.5 and 13.5 – I am perhaps guilty too of being over connected (but that’s also how I pay the bills).  But at this point, it’s generally easier for me to communicate with my kids via text – or if I really want to capture attention Snapchat.  Shame on me for getting to this point.

At the same time, I also see technology is the equivalent of making phone calls and gathering up with my friends when I was their age.  For both girls, there is a constant flow of group texts, group Snaps and group Chats – it’s not a lack of socialization.

To me the issue is the dynamic within the house – and the rolling eyes and the ever-present mobile phones.  It’s an uphill battle and one I’m not entirely sure I want to take on – after all I’m not contemplating euthanasia and it’s not getting in the way of the important aspects of home life.

When thinking about the question of if it’s the next great debate, or just a sign of the times – I’ll fall to the latter and accept the present.

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Of April, Birthdays and (Over) Thinking

RisaThe sayings go March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb to yield way to April showers for May flowers – April is not quite that optimistic a month for me.  For me it’s a chance to mark birthdays and over think milestones – not all of which are happy but I suppose that is the fertilizer of my life’s may flowers.

April starts with marking Risa’s birthday (4/6).  I have to confess it is among the dates I could never get right.  I always knew it was the sixth or the eighth – so I was ready for the sixth and rolled with it.  The month also the marks the passing of my father (4/14) and a reminder of my mortality (4/24).

Into that mix goes the rest of life that we deal with – the comings and goings of kids, the planning for events, work, school and all of the other pieces of life.

Last weekend 15.5 had a couple of camp friends over for a night.  It’s a small group of girls that have been close for five years – and this is the first summer they won’t be all together.  Some (like mine) are working, others are going to different summer programs and a few are going back for the next summer in camp.

I took that group plus 13.5 and one of her school friends to a local hibachi place for dinner.  As we were sitting there and I looked at the girls (each of their faces glowing in the light of their iPhone) and realized simultaneously how lucky I am and wondered what if life had been different?

We got the crew back to our house and 13.5 and her friend went upstairs and 15.5 and her friends went downstairs – and I sat in the family room watching hockey.  It wasn’t long before 15.5 asked me if a couple of boys could come over.  “It’s on now,” I thought – but I was prepared for this (shockingly I’ve thought about it).

So the boys came over and joined the music and shouting in the basement and I sat on the couch – trying to figure out how to pirate the west coast games (I couldn’t) and managed to stay awake long enough for the last of the boys to leave just before midnight.

One of the thoughts was how would this play out in a two parent home?  Would Risa have handled this differently?  I’m pretty sure I handled it right and the kids all had a good time – but should there have been more rules? More supervision?  Would a mom and daughter be a different mix than a dad and daughter?

I don’t get to change the equation on the last question.  So as we mark what would have been Risa’s 47th birthday and the march of milestones go by – April birthdays and (over) thinking gets started.

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Promise, Passion and a Bat Mitzvah

temple selfieWell, we did it.  13.0 not only celebrated her birthday over the weekend, she celebrated her bat mitzvah – and it’s truly an act of family that can pull off the entire event from Friday night services at temple, through the Saturday morning service and the party.  For me, the passion driving me to make this happen is the promise I made to Risa to get her children through this milestone in life.  So, this bat mitzvah was about passion and a promise.

As I mentioned here earlier this week, I stalled as long as possible putting together the montage that would be shown at the party – avoiding that walk down memory lane.  I equally avoided writing the speech because of the raw emotion that bring up within me.  In fact, I didn’t write the speech until I took the girls for mani/pedis on Friday afternoon.

In that speech, I spoke to 13.0 about finding things in life that she is passionate about.

Be passionate about what you want to do.

 

It may be softball, or art, or reading or writing – or something you have not even experienced yet. I can tell you when you are passionate about a goal, achieving it becomes easier and more enjoyable.

 

And you don’t have to limit yourself to just one passion. Pick your head up from the screen long enough to see the beauty of the world around you – and look into the eyes of the people here today, and know each of them wants you to succeed.

And with that – 13.0 and I stepped to the center of the temple and I took the selfie which is the picture – to remind her of the friends and family she can count on.

Just as I relied on my friends and family to achieve this wish Risa had for her children, and fulfill the promise I made with as much passion as I could muster – I hope that 13.0 will carry that passion beyond her bat mitzvah to all of the things she tries.

A weekend about a bat mitzvah, passion and promise – and all of it well done.

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Back In the Dad Business

back in business againIt certainly didn’t take long to go from mostly carefree near 50-year-old with kids away at camp to being back in the dad business.  It really took just a couple of hours before the chauffeur’s hat was out and juggling of plans was on – and the initial toll was a night’s sleep.

The girls came home from what both have called their best summer ever at camp.  15.0 had her trip to the Pacific Northwest and 12.5 had her trip to Washington DC (she returns to the nation’s capitol in the fall with school).  15.0 also completed her lifeguard certification at camp while 12.5 matched a camp record for bulls-eyes on the archery field (who knew)?

There were tons of stories as we sat down for pizza (as we usually do) after they got off the bus – and lots to share.  The girls had their adventures, I had mine Saturday doing the Long Island Tough Mudder.  We got home and they saw some of the changes in the house and went about unpacking the stuff they brought on the bus.

Then came the shout down the stairs:

“Padre,” 15.0 called out.  “Can you take me to my friend’s house?”

And so it goes.  About two hours later came the text, “Is it OK if we go to another friend’s house?”  Now the second friend wasn’t out with the gang because she’s battling a strep throat.  So I shared how I thought it would be a bad idea.  I was over ruled.

While 15.0 was out, I got an email from the head soccer coach of the girls program at the high school.  She now has training workout Tuesday and Wednesday morning.  Along with that she has a mandatory meeting for Camp Good Grief volunteers on Wednesday evening.

In the meantime, 12.5 has plans with one of her best friend’s today, softball practice on Thursday evening and both have dress shopping for 12.5’s bat mitzvah on Friday and Saturday.

A stark reminder the carefree summer days are over.  I can understand why sleep was so hard to come across last night.  And my sore legs are a stark reminder of the physical challenge of the Tough Mudder Saturday.  The signs are up, the lights are on – I’m back in the dad business, again.

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The Uber Parent

uberIf you work in, or have gone out in a city (or even some suburban areas) you probably know the concept of Uber – on demand rides.  The concept is pretty simple, you download an app, load in your credit card information – and when you need a ride you click a few buttons and your ride shows up ready to go.  We now live in the age of the Uber Parent though – and this could very well be my next app.

As an only parent, I don’t have a lock on this market certainly.  Any parent or set of parents with one or more teen-aged child who doesn’t drive knows the feeling.  Starting on Friday afternoon – there’s a text from a child and you’re in your car off to the races taking someone (or a small group) someplace.

The great thing about Uber is passengers get to rate the drivers and drivers get to rate the passengers – the higher your rating (both as a driver and passenger) the better the service.  This video featuring an old friend from my CBS News days will help explain how it works:

I do threaten to rate my kids to prioritize their rides, and I really wish now and then they could coordinate a bit so it’s not the sense of just driving in circles.  But in this über world of specified properties to extreme degrees – the Uber Parent app may soon be needed.

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Perception and Time

I'm Late, I'm LateI have a confession to make – more often than not I am punctual, meaning early to on time.  For almost everything.  If I wanted to further this confessional moment (which I guess I will), being late bothers me.  When it comes to perceptions and time I’ve realized recently it’s not always a shared trait in my house.

This pertains more to 14.5 (unless it’s a weekend morning where I have to wake 12.5 up).  Apparently being 5-10 minutes late for my older one is socially acceptable.  And according to her I need to change my outlook on time to meet her needs, since my getting her going an hour before an event (or 40 minutes before leaving for school) is just too much time.

There are few things in life that are nearly totally manageable by the individual.  There are always dependencies on other people (friends and family), other things (mass transit, traffic) or events (weather) that can impact when you arrive.  But you can control when you leave, and manage the expectation of when you’ll arrive.

Professionally, I have a schedule at work and I try to respect not only my time commitments but the time commitments others have made to be in meetings (or on calls) with me.  I try not to go over, I try to start on time and I try to be on time.  Obviously it’s a less than perfect system since there are a lot of variables you can’t control.

A recent case study for this was yesterday when instead of a nice easy day of calls from the home office I was summoned out to New Jersey and the corporate HQ.  So, instead of going to the gym and getting into my day I had to fight traffic and do all I could be on time for 1030 meeting – leaving my house with two and a half hours to travel.  I was on time.  I have no idea if the people who summoned me out to Basking Ridge know what it takes for me to be there at 1030 without notice.  In this case perception and time are one in the same.

Yesterday my brother (who is still living in my basement for those keeping score), asked me about a trip he had to make for some on the job training.  I thought travel time would be about 40 minutes under normal conditions.  I had no idea what traffic would be like on a Saturday morning and no insight into the weather.  So I told him to leave an hour early and kill 10 minutes.  I have no idea if that is what he did, but in this case perception and time are one in the same.

So back to 14.5.  She had to be at an outing with her class at temple at 11 this morning.  It’s raining pretty steadily here and generally passing all the shopping locations on a Saturday morning can add 20 minutes to a drive.  The place without traffic is about 20 minutes from our house.  So, I left with an hour early – creating a 20 minute cushion.

You’d think  she was two days early for the carrying on I had endured.  Apparently, if I give her 10 minutes to leave the house she’ll move quicker than if I give her 40 minutes.  This is based solely (according to her) on the amount of time she’ll be texting friends.  I am not completely sure I see the correlation, but that is the argument.

I try to share with her my thoughts that people form opinions on you based on how you present yourself, and punctuality is the first item in that list – even before appearance.  A moment where perception and time are linked.  I’m not sure she agrees with the preface of the argument though.  As far as she is concerned, five minutes late is on time.

As for 12.5, I guess if it doesn’t involve waking her up it there is no argument to be made for perception and time.

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Measured Involvement

Measured Involvement - balanceAs the only parent of a teen (14.5) and a very close to teen (12.0) – I am kind of lucky.  My kids are still willing to do things with me.  Whether its going to a hockey game or skiing, sitting around and watching hockey or as we did on Friday night – making homemade pasta from scratch, we still do things together.  But I also practice measured involvement – so my kids can have as much freedom as possible, while I keep a sense of family and involvement in place around them.

I think I am honest enough with myself to fully realize that as time goes on, my kids will want to do less and less with me.  I try to teach them independence and let them experience it as well.  Some of it they like – open-ended bedtime on the weekend, able to go out with friends and picking out their own clothes to name a few.  There are some traits of independence I am sure they aren’t thrilled with as well – like doing their own laundry, learning to use their allowance for their expenses and having to do chores around the house.

The independence I preach allows me to practice measured involvement – so I am not omnipresent at every event they have.  I stay way back at 14.5’s track meets and soccer games.  I jump in only when the coaches need a hand at 12.0’s softball practices and games.  My practice is measured involvement in their pursuits.

They are in the middle of a three-day weekend – except for 14.5 going out to dinner with her friends Saturday night and 12.0 having softball practice Sunday morning they have not seen any of their friends so far.  I ask them if they have plans or plans to make plans – but I will not make plans for them.  That’s me adhering to my measured involvement in their lives.

You can find volumes written on the subject of parental involvement with their teens – and I haven’t read any of them.  Instead, I rely on being honest with my kids and myself.  I hope by now we can count on one another to be fair to each other.

We’ll reach a point (probably too soon for me) I’ll have to step even further back.  I am confident I’ve given them the lessons and exposure to the experiences to make good choices.  But I’ll miss being involved in things.  So for now, as far as they’ll let me, and I’m willing I’ll embrace the moments.

Measured involvement – so far it seems to be working, because neither of my kids is kicking and screaming that I am around.  I’ll chalk that up in the win column – for now.

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Dad’s Night Off

Dad's Night OffThis year’s holiday break from school is one of those never-ending ones – two full weeks off.  That’s a lot of time home – so given the chance I called for a dad’s night off.

Dad’s night off came when 12.0 (and as it turned out two friends) decided to make dinner.  Shrimp quesadillas were on the menu.  What could go wrong?

The recipe came from the girls’ Home and Careers class (think Home Ec if you’re over 40).  The night was chosen so I’d have a chance to do the shopping – and since I go to the store once a week, 12.0 needed to give me the ingredient list:

  1. onions
  2. green onions
  3. garlic
  4. cheddar cheese (not shredded)
  5. tortillas
  6. shrimp
  7. tomatoes

For years – even before Risa passed I did the shopping and most of the cooking.  While I could live without the shopping – I enjoy the cooking, and generally I am pretty good.  The nice thing is my girls have great pallets, so I can make (or try to make) just about anything.  So this night would be special because for a change, dinner was not on my “to do” list, and 14.5 and I would have a chance to enjoy the fruits of 12.0’s labors.

Even though it was dad’s night off, there was still some advisory work to be done – helping the girls chop onions, slice scallion and pan fry the shrimp.  Along the way I tried to teach them some kitchen basics about knife skills, how to mince garlic safely and how to plan their meal.

So, it wasn’t a true night off – but there were moments that made the little bit of work seem worth it.  12.0 and her friend made shrimp for the very first time.  They were amazed at the way they turned pink – cooking from the inside out.  I did buy already de-veined shrimp so I was able to skip teaching them how to clean the poop shoot.

And there was a discernible look of satisfaction on the faces of all three girls as we sat down, and dug into their creations.  It was tangible evidence that they are growing up.  Able to fish – as opposed to just having fish for a meal.  They own the recipe, and now the skills – one more step on the way to young lady status.

After a great meal – one I did not have to cook, I completed the role reversal with 12.0 and did her chores.  So I did the dishes and cleaned the table tops (14.5 had floors and garbage to contend with).  A chance to relax, share an experience and enjoy a meal someone else cooked – I’ll take it for dad’s night off.

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Sharing The Trade Secrets

A Helping HandFor 12.0 today is the second of her camp friend’s Bat Mitzvah’s – so we are at the beginning of her run of trips all around the tri-state area to celebrate with her friends.  Add in a few from the temple, and she’ll be busy most weekends through June – not unlike what her sister went through two years ago.  So it was big sister who stepped up and was sharing the trade secrets for makeup and hair.

For me its a lot of arranging car pools and a fair amount of driving.  For 12.0 its a fair amount of dressing, working on hair and nails and make up.  And she has the benefit of a great big sister who helps her out with all of that – and I have to admit I am pretty proud of the young ladies I live with.

From the moment your children are born, people always tell you it goes by quickly, and it truly does.  I can remember the moment I had to confront being a single parent taking my then pre-teen older daughter bra shopping.  It was a decision I made not to shirk the parental responsibility.

The other decision I made a long time ago, was to make sure 14.5 was never cast as a parent for her sister – but could if she wanted the role be a great big sister.

So, when 12.0 needed to get ready for her friend’s Bat Mitzvah, there was her sister helping with the hair and makeup.  Would they both rather have their mother help them with this – I’m sure the answer is yes.  But that’s not the way our family works – so we rely on each other, and there was big sister stepping in, and not just applying make up, but showing 12.0 some tips and tricks.

And I’m more than good with that.  My kids know in our house we can rely on one another when it comes to sharing the trade secrets.

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Feeling Old About My Halloween First

Kids are Growing UpI suppose the day was inevitable – but still I’m not sure I was quite ready for it.  For the first time I did not do the trick or treating walk with either of my kids.  A moment I’ve shared with one or both of them for 14 years has come to an end.  I’ll admit it, I’m feeling old about my Halloween first this year.

Although I’m feeling old, I’m actually OK with it.  The reality is, these moments I’ve shared over the years will come to an end, and there are new moments that will (and have) replaced them.  We can’t live in the past, and we have to keep evolving and changing – and I’m OK with that.

But still.  I can remember racing home to meet the bus and getting the girls and starting the trek.  In our neighborhood – there are 110 homes close together.  You can do the lap around our community in about 40 minutes (closer to 90 with five-year olds).

This year 14.5 was off with friends.  I’ll admit a Friday night Halloween was reason to worry.  A lot of drinking, and a lot of drinking and driving.  But I know she knows right from wrong and I was able to talk to her about my concerns and she understood.

12.0 went off with a friend after school, and was then in our gated community after dinner.  Many fewer worries about her being local in the dark – and she and her friend are responsible and understand the importance of looking out.

So, my Halloween was answering the door and handing out candy, and not the usual walk about the my neighborhood and the ones nearby.

Out with the old, and in with the new – but looking at the micro of this situation, I still can’t help but feel old about this Halloween first.

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