Girls and Their Hair

A lesson learned back in my teen-aged years about girls and their hair has generally served me well later in life. That lesson, just be complimentary, don’t be judgemental or critical.  It’s not that I don’t have an opinion, or don’t want to share it.  But girls and their hair share a unique relationship.

As an only parent to two girls generally speaking I have let my daughters keep their hair as they want.  I call it picking my argument.  It’s also probably a bit of survival.

For years, both girls have kept long hair.  17.5 was around mid-back and 15.5 was closer to her waist.  At the end of the summer, 17.5 decided to cut it off.  She had 10 inches of hair removed (and did some blonde highlighting).  The removed follicles were donated to Locks of Love for use in wigs for children with cancer.

This weekend, it was 15.5’s turn. She had 14 inches of hair trimmed off and will be sending it to Locks of Love on Monday.

What struck me about her plan was she was very talkative about it.  I don’t remember 17.5 saying much other than she wanted to highlight her hair.  15.5 was much more vocal, “Its my last day with long hair,” she said to me Friday morning.

Girls and their hair, it’s a unique relationship.  I was (or at least hope I was) reassuring to her and supportive of her decision.  We talked about how when she was younger and wanted no part of brushing her hair we had to give her a shorter “bob” cut.

When she was done and walked back to the car, I could see the immediate difference in the way her hair framed her face.  As I was waiting for her, I thought back to the days when I took the girls for haircuts – and the discussions I had with the hair dressers.

“Do you want layers?” they’d ask me.  “How about the front, just a trim?”

My response was always the same, “See what their hair looks like now, the same thing but shorter.”

Girls and their hair, not a great spot for a mostly dumb guy to start making drastic decisions.

Fast forward six or seven years, and my girls can easily articulate what they want for their hair (thankfully).  And of course share it quickly to social media.

It was there I learned the other half of 15.5’s long hair story – she dedicated the cutting her hair to her mom who died of a brain tumor seven years ago this month.  There are times I wonder if my girls remember the date, and other times I am astonished by their grown up actions and thoughts.

Girls and their hair.  Be supportive.  Be complimentary.  Don’t be critical.  And in this case be proud.

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Being Able to Step Back

foot stepsThe words of warning are well-intentioned I know, and kind of redundant.  As a single parent of a now 13.5 year old and an 11-year-old I’ll have two girls in the teens together.  Yeah, they warn of the teen years (especially for girls), as of now my strategy to survival is being able to take a step back.

Right now it’s more the case with the older than the younger, there is a lot of feeling out to see just how far she can go – and at the same time some clinging to make sure she stays safe.  I fully know this will change over the next few years.

As she tries to branch out, I try to let her do it and explore the world around her.  I cherish the moments she decides to cling to her childhood and just hang – but I also want her to be independent and able to be out in the world.

Being able to step back though is not quite as easy as it sounds.  You have to be willing to live with mistakes and lessons.  Being able to step back means giving up some control so she can get out and explore the world.

Friday I went to pick her up after school at a friend’s house to find her there with her friend and a boy.  The plan was they were going to go out to dinner with a third girl and all come back to my house.  This would have been the first boy (minus the kids in the neighborhood) coming over.

Today its a trip to the mall with a friend with a friend.  We don’t live close enough for two 13 year old’s to make it to the mall on their own.  The friend’s mother is driving them there and will likely be in the mall.  I fully expect the two of them to venture off and go make up shopping or something like that.

At this moment I ask myself if I did my job to prepare her for this.  Did I show her how to be aware of her surroundings?  Can she find her way from end to end?  I think yes, but we’ll find out.

With a deep breath today I find myself being able to step back….

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Making Time to Meet the Teacher

Back To School NightAs the girls enter their third week of school, the calendar has turned to the annual trek for parents back to school for the meet the teacher night.  I’ve never been a huge fan of this event because I really don’t get it.  Yeah, I go and I keep hoping something new will happen, but it just never does. However, after last year and the way it went, I’m making time to meet the teacher this year.

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Last year, just the way the schedule fell I wasn’t able to make it to either school for meet the teacher night.  For my younger one, I got to meet with her teacher the day after and develop a good working relationship.  I never made it to the middle school to meet the older one’s teachers though and outside of the two teachers I knew from outside of school I had no relationships.

For the older one, not as much a problem.  For the younger one, I felt like I was in near constant contact with her teacher last year.

My rational last year was I would meet the older one’s teachers at the parent teacher conference in November.  For me, this is a better moment for me anyway, I can ask specific questions and focus on one child at a time.

Little did I know Super Storm Sandy was lurking and would wipe out parent teacher conferences in the middle school.

Lesson (for me) learned.  This year I am making time to meet the teacher.  Not an easy one this year.  Since both girls are in middle school this year (generally an advantage) I have consecutive nights of meet the teacher nights.  So, the next two nights it’s a race home, (Monday 10.5 has softball too), get to the school, get home, get squared up and get into the next day.

A little investment now though should help pay dividends later in the school year-at least that’s what I am telling myself this year.

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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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Sometimes It’s Like Oil and Water

Oil and WaterAn early morning conversation with 12.5 today lead me to an interesting insight-and maybe others have gotten here already but because of my relationship with relationships I am just getting there at 46.  Sometimes, opposites attract like polar ends of a magnet and sometimes it’s like oil and water and it just never comes together.

To anyone who’s read my book, The Beginning of the Middle of the End of the Beginning (available for download now), you know I spent most of my 12 year marriage as a care giver and over the last 4-5 years almost exclusively as a caregiver and parent.

While that helped me prepare for my role as a single parent I am not sure it helped me prepare for my role as half of a relationship.   I can remember back to those days in my 20’s when I was dating-without having to balance a home and family and making lot’s of mistakes in relationships.

Fast forward by more than 20 years, and dating while balancing a house and family leaves many new opportunities to make mistakes.  While I like to think I learn along the way, the lessons come with costs in emotions, stress and turning what hair is not gray yet gray.

Sometimes, opposites attract and it all works out.  Other times, it’s like oil and water trying to mix.

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Hmmm The Human Moments

Things That Make You Go HmmmThere are moments, and often they are the ones we hope don’t happen, where we can take a step back and say,”Yeah, we’re human.”  You can scratch your head, rub your chin, let out a, “hmmm,” but then off you go back into life again.

I’m pretty sure I had one of those moments last night.  In this case it was probably a few weeks if not longer coming and its a chance to take a step back and realize where you’re at what you’re doing and just go, “hmmm.”

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While there are hurt feelings for sure and the never-ending string of self-questioning what if’s and could it have been different at the end of the day, it’s a human moment.

So as I was driving along last night through a light snow the Queen song “We Are The Champions” came on, the line, “And bad mistakes, I’ve made a few” resonated a little louder than the rest of the song.  Yeah, I’m half culpable.  But as my mom used to say when two of three of us got into a fight, “It takes two to tango.”

And in this human moment, two people with caring in their hearts and even love on their minds manage to have a human moment.  That’s OK.  It’s a chance to scratch your head, rub your chin and let out an audible, “hmm.”

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Lines, Boundaries, and the Blur

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US MapOne of the roles a parent plays is to teach their children about behavioral lines and boundaries.  How far they can go, and understand there are repercussions when the lines are crossed.  It’s up to our children to push those boundaries and grow.

But when we become adults, learning those lines and boundaries as our lives change is very different.  Maybe that is why as we get older we get more set in our ways, because that learning of boundaries is set at such an early age.  I’m not sure, it’s a new theory though.

As 12.5 emerges into her teen years, I see a lot of that going on with her.  There is less jump when asked to do something, more pushback when she does not agree and the never-ending set of “why” questions when it just has to be done.  And all of that is normal, and dealt with in real-time.

For 10.0, the changes are more subtle, but they are emerging as well.  With her as she sees her sister push the boundaries, she would like to go along for the ride.  Sometimes there has to be a reminder that her sister is almost a teen, sometimes I’m OK with it, and sometimes the answer is just no.

Then there is my use case, which comes with much less of a template.

In many ways I am a mid-40’s parent with parental responsibilities.  In some ways I am a 25-year-old single guy trying to balance a relationship and life.  But when I was 25 and dating there were no kids (mine or hers) in the mix.  There were no complications of life (widow, divorce, separation etc) to blur the lines and boundaries.

So while my inner 25-year old wants to do a lot of things, my in the moment 45-year old stands up and says there are rules and responsibilities.  In between is my inner rational trying to work it all out in real-time.

No one ever said it would be easy, but a map (with borders) would be nice.  Usually trial and error works.  Sometimes its the border looks less like Nevada and Utah and more like northern Kentucky from Indiana to Ohio.

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Chopping Away

Venturing to where no relationship (of mine) has gone in the past (although it’s a relatively small sample size), Health Club Girl and I did a meeting of our children a few days ago.  In not so unusual circumstance for me, I tried to read up on best practices and get some insight from others who had trodden down this path.

Unfortunately, most of the advice out there was pretty bad.  So, HCG and I went with heart and tried to make it fun and easy for the kids.  The upside is we had success.

First off, timing wise, HCG and I seemed based on blog reading and family pundit “experts” to be doing this early.  It felt like the right time though, so we decided to head down the path.

Rather than simply putting the kids together to play or sit down to dinner, we made it interactive and were able to include a shared passion we have and involve all four of our kids.

Since we both like to cook and are both self-proclaimed foodies, HCG and I staged a modified episode of the Food Network show Chopped with our kids.  First the four girls descended upon a local food store to buy four ingredients that would be in our “Chopped basket.”  She and I would then have 10 minutes to pick up staples we would use along with other pantry items already in her kitchen.

HCG and I sat down in a market cafe while the girls shopped with my credit card.  They came back with 1.5 pounds of scallops for each of us to cook.  Two jars each of apple-banana baby food, two artichokes and a box of oyster crackers.

After HCG and I did some quick shopping we hit the kitchen with our older girls (hers 13.5 and mine 12) as our sous chefs.  The younger girls decided to play together and relax-which was fine, no pressure.

At the end of the night, HCG won with a scallop and pasta dish, edging out my pan-fried scallops and bacon.  The side dishes I think is what won it for her-but in the end, the awkward part of our girls knowing one another was finished.  The night ended sitting around a table at a local ice cream place with all the girls deep into bowls of ice cream and toppings.

Win all the way around.

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To Passover Or Not?

With the Jewish celebration of Passover closing in-like any other milestone moment, it’s a chance to evaluate and see where I’m at and with the forced metaphor of “passing over or not” its an effective means to sort things out.

So to pass over or not:

  1. Moving:  For now I think this is one I am going to passover on.  While in the long run, cutting my commute time down from four hours+ a day would be a good move, the time is not right.
  2. Figuring out relationships: This is a tough one.  Not going to passover on it though.  Going to keep trying I suppose and figure one day I may get it right.
  3. Getting the girls to do chores: No passover on this one, but clearly a direct tie into allowances is not a motivating factor.  Their compliance is sporadic at best.  Need to work this out better.
  4. Getting 9.0 to brush her hair daily: Not a passover here.  Aside from the realistic reasons, she looks better with her hair brushed.
  5. Figuring out life: For my own sanity going to passover on this one.  Nearly 45 years into it, I still am no closer to sorting it out.
  6. Understanding how the LIRR works: Commuters have been at this far longer than I.  Have to passover on this one.
  7. Upgrading my car: Although I’d really like to, I park it at a train station 80% of the time.  Think I need to passover.
  8. Sorting out and planning 11.5’s Bat Mitzvah: Don’t get to passover on this one.  Have to figure out how to make it work and how to make it work well.  A lot of moving parts to bring together on this one.
  9. Slowing down just a little: Although I’d like to not passover on this one, it’s a passover.  Not sure how to manage and slow down at the same time.
  10. Finally finish my next book: Going to get really serious about this.  It’s about 75% done as of now.  Looking to finish before the summer-be on the lookout.  Not a passover item.

And there it is, for no real reason and based on nothing more than this moment in time. What are your “passovers or not?”  Even if you only think about it-it’s a moment in time to take stock and look at the micros that make up the macros.

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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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