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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8765 Times Four Living and Remembering

RisaThere are 8765 hours in a year – and each of them has ticked off once again since Risa passed away in 2010.  Entering my fifth year as a single parent raising two girls and I can say we are making the best of our lives and have overcome life’s hurdles – not without challenges.  But 8765 times four living and remembering, we’re hanging in.

A lot happened during the course of the year – along with each of us getting a year older we’ve gone about living our lives together and independently – and I think each of us have learned a lot.  The memories we share of Risa are never far away, and we talk about them a lot.

For me, I’ve had the chance to do so much during the last year.  It may not look like a well planned and thought out process – but more often than not it is.  There are so many people in my life who help make things easier to deal with.  Many have been there for a life time or longer – others are new.

For the girls, the year has been full of a lot of change and transition.  14.0 is in high school now, and asserting her independence.  12.0 is growing so quickly – and is quickly becoming a young lady.  She’s deep into the circuit for bar/bat mitzvahs for friends now – with hers less than a year away.

In the middle of the year our long time sitter moved out.  A few months later, my brother (who needed a chance to re-boot) moved in.  One day we’ll get our house back – but until then, I think Risa would be happy.  8765 time four living and remembering – and we’re doing OK.

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He, She, They an App Review

He She They App ReviewWatch any gathering of young kids (I’m talking three-year olds or so) with their parents, and you’ll see kids with phones or devices – normally belonging to their parents.  But these kids are able to easily navigate the devices and launch the apps within.  I don’t bemoan this twist of technology.  Like reading to your child it’s a learning opportunity, and there are apps for that.  One of them is He, She, They, and this is a single dad app review.

The altruistic part.  The app is a $1.99 purchase from iTunes or Google Play with money from each purchase going to Autism Speaks, and since this is Autism Awareness Month, not a bad time to make the purchase.

The app, as its name suggests is designed to help kids understand the pronouns he, she and they.  It’s designed by some folks who have been working in the speech therapy field for years and has a pretty cool user interface.

The app launches in landscape on device and you swipe images into buckets broken down by “He” “She” and “They.”  One of the nice things about this app that many of the other educational apps don’t have is the game within a game.  After some correct matches balloons launch and you can try to pop them.

Another nice aspect to the app is there are three levels, so your $1.99 can go a little further – and you can watch your child master the key pronouns.

The teachers who helped design the app had kids on the lower end of the cognitive scale in mind.  But once your child is able to differentiate words, its a nice app to cement the proper use of these pronouns.

The graphics are crisp, and there are subtle changes in the experience each time.  It’s not just “nice job.”  There is also “way to go” and “thumbs up” mixed in, which will help drive engagement with the app, and enhance the learning opportunities.

So, yeah, your child can sell another farm or line up three diamonds – but with He, She, They they’ll learn something too.  A single dad app review.

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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 Final Science Fair Project-Not So Wispy

Tri-Fold Board for Science ProjectAs Spring Break (Passover/Easter week off from school) comes to a close here, we are reaching a milestone of sorts.  Putting the finishing touches on the final science fair project in the house.  This is the eighth project over six years, and I can say I am not all too wispy to reach this moment.

The tri-fold boards, the presentations, the walking the halls of the school.  Finally, this part of education in this house is over.  We’ve accomplished some cool stuff.  There was the year we studied how to conserve water; found out how a violin makes music and this year the geologic make up of our area.

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Those tri-fold boards are tucked away.  There was the year we lived with a rotten egg in the refrigerator in a bowl of vinegar to somehow connect with tooth decay-that was certainly memorable if not educational.

The rule has always been there had to be a lesson learned.  We’ve avoided cleaning pennies, and generating power with potatoes.  We’ve focused on being practical, experimental and hopefully sharing some knowledge.

But alas, by the time the week ends, the science fair part of our lives will be behind us.  The annual trek to Staples for supplies and CVS for photo prints just part of our collective past.  New horizons await, but they won’t be consolidated to the panels of the tri-fold board.

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Overprotective? Perhaps….

So last night was the second night of Passover and I accepted an invitation from a co-worker to join him and his family for a second night seder at his NYC apartment.  In the days leading up to the holiday we talked about whether or not I would bring the girls with me.

Ultimately, I decided no.  This was largely because I was concerned they would be the youngest children there.  The next youngest would be my co-workers’ 15 year old daughter.  Not that I think anything bad would have occurred mind you, it’s just that I did not want to take them to a spot where they did not know anyone and would feel uncomfortable.

As I was rolling home on the LIRR last night, I realized I erred on the side of over-protection.

It’s important to me to make sure I put the girls into a spots where they will succeed.  But it’s also important to challenge them and push them to grow-and this was an opportunity lost.

And by no means was this a huge loss mind you, there will be more opportunities to bring them into more advanced social settings, but I have to make note to remember to give the girls a chance to grow and not worry as much about their being uncomfortable.

One of the things I have marveled at about my girls-from visiting Risa in hospice and helping her eat, to getting through the funeral and unveiling, to going away to sleep away camp-they are adaptive.

Sometimes like last night I need a reminder to let them adapt.

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Experience the Dictator

As a parent one of my goals is to try to impart my experiences on my kids-and hopefully lead them to the lessons learned.  But the reality is they will have to have their own experiences and draw their own lessons.  I can only hope I have done and will do a good enough job in teaching them how to learn from their experiences and how to find good experiences from bad.

And right now I can probably use some of that sage learning for myself.

While I have never been a true student of history and I’ve never been one to claim those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it-I do believe that our experiences and our personal histories help to shape our choices today and our futures beyond.

Case in point is my latest brain teaser-relating to one of my least favorite topics to dwell on-relationships.  As I go about entering into and nurturing relationships in many ways I am back to my days of being 25 years old.  The significant difference is the mountain of responsibility I manage along with the relationship that I did not have when I was 25.

Even back then, this was no slam dunk topic for me.  Fast forward to 2012, with two kids, a career, a house and being out of that market for the last 18 years or so-it’s a challenge.  What makes it even more perplexing is that unlike when I was 25 and dating 25 year old’s the people in my dating range also have a new mountain of experiences and responsibilities that they have to navigate too.

So being successful in a relationship in 2012 as a single parent means not only balancing the give and take of partnership.  But also navigating the life experiences of the partner-and as I’ve learned this month that’s no easy ask.

At each crossroad it’s easy to look inward and gaze through the window of my life and pick a path to negotiate.  It’s much tougher to negotiate cross roads through two lifetimes-when the intersecting roads are years upstream of the experiences.

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Visiting Day

OK, so first, this post is like two weeks later than it should be-but a lot has been going on between the new job and home improvements etc.  So, better late than never…

As anyone who even casually reads this blog knows, my kids went off to sleep away camp for the first time this summer.  There was the stress of getting everything they needed, getting it labeled and getting it packed-but somehow between school events and softball games we made that happen.  You can read in on the day I dropped the girls at the bus here to get a flavor for my overall mindset about sending them off to camp.

Roughly three weeks into camp (two weeks ago) was visiting day.  Visiting day for me struck up a lot of memories about visiting day when I went to camp.  To help with those memories, my mom made the trip to Monticello with me.

The picture is when I was walking onto the camp grounds, the kids were all lined up, waiting to see their parents, and then there was a mad dash.  The interesting thing here is that I saw 8.5 first-well before she saw me.  I didn’t see 11.0 until she was about four feet away.  Seeing them made me realize how much I missed having them around, but seeing them also made me realize how good it’s been for them to be at camp and having this experience that is theirs and one they can share with me.

As we walked around the camp grounds, went swimming, took out a row-boat, sat under a tree eating fried chicken, getting ice cream at the canteen-I realized this was their place and I was just the visitor.  I think that’s the first time I felt like that with the girls.  It’s not a feeling I get when I go to their school.  It’s not really the kind of feeling I got when I went to see their plays and gymnastic shows at day camp.  I got the feeling this was their place and their memories they could share with me the way they want to-and when they want to.

Hopefully, they’ll be willing to share and hopefully I can get them to embrace this concept that it’s great for them to have moments that are theirs to share.

 

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