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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Style: Teaching Moments and Decision Making

Breaking Bad + Hunger Games As the girls’ wrap up their first week home from camp, I’ve made a bunch of realization and some things I know resonated as lessons learned, and a lot of that has to do with media consumption-go figure.  It all started when I realized 13.0 was watching Breaking Bad on Netflix.  As a huge fan of Breaking Bad, I know it carries at TV 14 rating.  She told me about a meme of Gus with half his face blown off she saw as drawing her to the show.  I wasn’t (and I’m still not) ready for her to watch Breaking Bad.  But I want it to be her decision, I just told her I thought there were better things for her to watch.  I see it as a teaching moment and helping in the decision-making process.

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Over the summer while at a movie, I saw a coming attraction for the second movie in the Hunger Games storyline, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  Last March, it was a then 11.0 (now 13) who asked me to take her to Hunger Games on opening night.  This November, it will be 10.5 who wants me to take her to the sequel.  Not completely age appropriate, but it’s a teaching moment and helping in decision-making.

As a parent, I try not to censor the girls in what they watch, read or do.  I hope I have done my job and can help them make good decisions.  I don’t have to like the decisions they make, but I will support them.  So, we’ll probably see the new Hunger Games movie, and I’m pretty sure 13.0 will get back to Breaking Bad.  What’s important to me is they are thinking about what they are doing, and making good decisions.

And, as I did after The Hunger Games movie, I’ll spend time with 13.0 talking about Breaking Bad and the story lines.  After we see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, I’ll spend time with 10.5 talking about the story.  That’s my job.

It’s not as much about what they decide to watch, or read.  It’s about the decisions they make getting there, and what their thoughts about it after they see it that matter to me.

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Giving Back: Wheels 2 Water

Wheels 2 WaterWith time on my hands (no kids), a heat wave in full force and the opportunity to give back a little, I took part this week in the Wheels 2 Water event at a beach on Long Island.  And I have to say, for all the right reasons (including beating the heat) it was a day well spent.

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Wheels 2 Water is the brainchild of a father and son who had to cope with a spinal cord injury that could have ended the son’s love of surfing and enjoying the beach.  Instead they came up with a way to share their love of the water with others.

In a rewarding morning, I was among a group of volunteers helping people wheel chair bound get into the water, out into the surf and ride the waves.  Take a look at this video from one of the local TV stations here:

Wheels 2 Water

The day was so good and personally rewarding I am going to bring the girls to the September event and let them give back as well.

More on the event and the Testaverde Fund for Spinal Cord Injury.

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Bag of Surprises

Bag of SurprisesI know I am not the only parent who is spending some time this summer cleaning out the rooms’ of their children.  In fact, I can remember when I went away to camp, my mom would clean out my room.  It’s probably a right of summer in some way.  But my favorite part if the bag of surprises I stumble across as I go through the process.

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Now these bag of surprises are sprinkled around the house, many in the girls’ rooms.  They are big and small bags, packed and tucked away.  I’ve lost count with how many I’ve uncovered so far this summer-but there have been some interesting finds:

  • One  bag in 10.5’s room had a half eaten bagel wrapped up in foil.
  • One bag in 13.0’s room had a towel wrapped up in a bag that looks like it was from the day-camp they went to four years ago.
  • Tucked away the bathroom the girls’ share was a bag filled with rocks, not sure who will claim that one.

The good news for me is there are still three more bags to go (pictured).  I wonder what surprises are in my future as I review the bag of surprises that remain.

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The Sounds of Summer Silence

Sounds of Summer SilenceAs summer 2013 begins, once again the girls will head off to camp.  Almost lost in the shuffle of 13.0’s Bat Mitzvah and 10.5’s graduation to middle school-the right of summer in our house is here.  Off to the buses we go tomorrow morning, and for me, the sounds of summer silence shall ring out.

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Two years ago (the first year the girls went to camp), I was starting a new job and had some home projects I was either doing or having done.  Last year was all about rehab from my first of two knee surgeries.  This year, all about enjoying the sounds of summer silence.

There are no major plans.  A long weekend on Block Island, a few smaller projects around the house that I would try to get done anyway and just trying to recharge.

My knees are feeling good, I’d like to learn how to stand up paddle board this summer.

The girls feel ready for camp.  I went with 10.5 this morning to get her some summer reading material and offered up five times to make a stop if she needed anything.  She said no, but I think she knows she just needs to get on the bus tomorrow morning.

So after spending the first three months of the year rehabbing after the second knee surgery of 2012 and second three months working on school projects and Bat Mitzvah preparations, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the sounds of summer silence.

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Did You Ever?

Did You Ever?There are moments when you look around and realize, did you ever?  And this could be one of them for me.  I somehow manage to get involved with a great partner and I still managed to mangle the relationship.

I am admittedly not an easy person to be in a relationship with.  I think largely my issues in relationships are due to my relative inexperience in relationships and because for five years or more I’ve done what I think is best-with little sounding off.

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That said, I am a good guy at heart.  And being good has to count for something, right?

But that something is relative.  I admit, I make decisions less about what is good for me and more about what is good for us as a whole.  And that probably does not work in a relationship.  But it’s important to me.

I am not deeply spontaneous and mix that with not being a good planner and you end up with an outwardly who is not easy to make plans with.  I am not sure that is the case, but easily it could be.

Over the years I have been dating I have tried to be better at being in relationships.  It’s a learning process for sure, but every now and then I think I make progress.  Then you hit a patch where you say to yourself, “Did you ever?” and all of a sudden your on your ass-progress gone backward and no one to blame.

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The Devil In The Details

Devil in the DetailsIt’s three weeks until 12.5 turns 13 and has her Bat Mitzvah.  I know it’s a time for her to be excited, nervous and probably a little worried.  For me, it’s a time to be excited, nervous and a little worried.  I know she’ll do a great job and I know everyone will have a lot of fun at the party-but getting it planned is a huge task, and the devil is in the details.

We have the big stuff done.  Dresses are in.  Shoes are purchased.  Place picked out.  Speech (hers) done.  Invites out and responses back.  Now comes the nitty-gritty.

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We have to do the table seatings.  Come up with the center pieces. We need to get gifts for the tutor, rabbi and cantor.  A bunch of things like that just need to get done.

Oh yeah, I have girls.  We have hair and nails to worry about as well.

Not to mention working with the DJ on the flow of the event, the photographer on the pictures I want to make sure get captured, picking out the menu and the linens (somehow it matters what color the napkin is that is on a table-cloth that is also color coordinated).

The first step though is knowing the list.  Got that covered.  Next up-picking off the devilish details one at a time.

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Change v. Evolution

Stages in human evolutionA long time ago while sitting in an executive meeting with members of the “C” ring of a large company I heard an executive explain a 180-degree change in course by stating with a straight face, “My thoughts on that have evolved.”  That line has stuck with me for more than 10 years.  I’ve even used it.  This week though, I’ve been holding court in my head in an interesting case of Change v. Evolution.

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One of the issues with this debate, the plaintiffs in the case are both me.

I like to think of myself as an evolved person.  As a single parent with two girls I have to be in touch with enough of my feelings to be able to talk to my girls.  Now that one is about to be a teen and the other is holding on to tween, the conversations are very different.  I think I am effective enough though to hold my own with both scenarios.

Then come other aspects of life-when I’m not at work and not at home and have to communicate.  That can be a challenge for me.  I even stopped to get some testimony on this theory today and my thoughts were validated.  I do struggle.  But I think I am better at those conversations now than I was when I was in college or when I was married.

To borrow from the executive mentioned at the beginning, my abilities in this arena have evolved.  When I looked up the difference between “evolution” and “change” it was an interesting read.

Via dictionary.com evolution is a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development.  The same site says change is to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone

By my read, over the course of the (gulp) 23 years since college my ability to communicate has evolved in the truest sense of the word.  And I’d like to think the evolution will continue.    But change seems more immediate and less nuanced.  Yes, in this case life is better with change (and the change agent) that what it would be if left alone.

While man gradually stood through the course of evolution, change (and it’s agents) can be far tougher.  Think back to the change in our history on 9/11 or the Boston Marathon bombings.  It’s a sudden shock that alters the reality.

In my house, I try to bring on change through evolution-long and short-term evolution projects.  My kids deserve that, and frankly I can handle that.  Change in the house that comes on suddenly tends to disrupt our house and we’ve had enough of that.

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The Single Dad Run Around, Off It Goes

The Run AroundThis afternoon was one of those afternoons where a single dad would need to be in two places at once, or just run around to keep the wheels in motion.  And it all started so innocently, until that moment when you know it’s off the rails and there it goes.

I probably should have realized the day would go that way when I was doing a hardcore budgeting project before breakfast and before my shower.  Looking back, that was probably the easy part of the day.

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So, this afternoon, my sitter was dealing with a car problem and I knew 12.5 had a doctor’s appointment at 345 and 10.0 would have to get to Hebrew school (with her half of the carpool doing the pick up) by 430.  Cutting it close, sure.  But 12.5’s doctor the last four times we saw him was right on time-so if that was consistent we were fine.

As I should have noted at 815 when I was messing with spreadsheets and projects, there would be nothing consistent with the day.  I missed the signs of inconsistency.

12.5’s doctor was a full 45 minutes late.  We walked out of the doctor’s office when I should have been dropping 10.0 and the rest of the carpool at Hebrew.  So, the smart thing was texting all the parents and letting them know I would be late-but who knew just how late I would be.

Mix some traffic, and then getting caught behind a left-turner and 10.0 and the carpool made it to Hebrew a full 30 minutes late.  Safe yes.  But late.

Finally now, dinner is done and the Islanders are on TV and I am kind of caught up.  Sure there is plenty to do still, but that can wait for now.  I’m sure that in no time the bell will sound and off I’ll go on the single dad run around.

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Opening Day and Throw Back of Sorts

Mr. MetWith significantly less planning than I used to use in my school days, I managed to be home today for opening day and as my beloved Mets hit the field at Citi Field, I could not help but think this opening day was a throw back of sorts for me-back to the days where I came up with reasons to be home to watch the season start.

It was not a perfect system (and yes I know my mom reads my blog), but by and large I manage to cough, scam and finagle a way to watch opening day most years.

Today though was a little different.

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For one, by the time 8:30 rolled around I had forgotten it was opening day.  I was on my fourth call of the day and was listening to a product discussion while pouring coffee and grabbing my keys.  I knew I had a 9AM call as well.  I would head for the train station, take the call, get on the train and hit the office.

But then I found out during that call at nine I would also have a 9:30 call with some high up in my company folks, so reliability would be key.  In the office I was going to catch up with a few folks, no customer meetings today in person (all calls) so instead of parking and getting on the train, I looped around the parking lot and headed home.

It was just as the 9:30 call ended that I re-realized it was opening and here I was sitting at home with just hours to go before first pitch.  Back to the days of Lee Mazzilli in the outfield, Craig Swan on the mound and John Stearns behind the plate.  Today it would be the more updated version-but I would be able to watch opening day.  A throw back of sorts.

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