Your Best and Hope

do your best and hopeGenerally, I try to keep things positive and keep it in perspective.  It would be easy to lament the things I’m either missing or have been without in life.  But I don’t think that serves me well – instead (and I use this metaphor a lot) I look in the mirror in the morning and hope the guy looking back knows you do your best and hope for the right outcome.

Admittedly, it sounds a little overly thought out – but a friend’s Facebook post recently got me thinking about not only my life my the lives of my kids.  Without sharing more than she may want in this forum – she’s a 9/11 widow and her daughter – who was a new-born on that day in 2001 recently went found her father’s name at the memorial in NYC.  My friend posted the text exchange she had with her daughter including a picture of the name.

Do your best and hope is probably standard thinking for any parent – or at least I would hope that it is.  But in the case of an only parent where you play two roles but can only be one person it has a different feel.

I grew up without a father.  He passed when I was in kindergarten.  I don’t think I missed out on anything in life – but I admit I didn’t have a blueprint to be a father.  This is when your best and hope has to work.

My kids are growing up without a mother.  What will their future as parents be? Was my best good enough? I hope so.

In my house, my kids have a closeness I never had with my brothers.  I’m not sure that’s just a function of girls and boys.  I’m not sure its a function of parenting.  Even when my older brother lived with us for a year, I still never felt that bond that I can see in my girls.

Back then I told my kids we were opening our house because that’s what you do for family – it was the best we could do at the time.  You do your best and hope.

So as we embark on the next school year with all kinds of firsts – 17.5 will drive to school, graduate in June, apply to college while 15.0 will move into honors English and advanced art classes – is my best enough?

It’s what I can offer.  Everyday I tell the guy in the mirror – just do your best and hope.

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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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A Birthday Wish

Today would have been Risa’s 48th birthday.  As has always been the case – I thought about it a couple of days ago (April 4 to be exact).  For all the years we were together, I could never firmly remember whether her birthday was the fourth or the eighth.  I just was ready on the fourth and waited for others to say happy birthday.  So, here’s a birthday wish….

While I struggle with April because of birthday’s and the milestones of the month Risa was always big on birthdays.  I can’t help but think she would have truly found pleasure in taking 16.5 to the seamstress this morning for a second fitting for her junior prom gown (it needs a few more nips and tucks).  And I know she would have found 14.5’s coming home with the application for working papers and a plan to get a job rewarding – I know I did.

There won’t be any candles (or cake) tonight.  No singing of “Happy Birthday.”  Instead, there will be a birthday wish that I know Risa would hope to share – that everyone take a moment to enjoy what you have and cherish the moment.

I know I will today – and into next week when the next milestone comes.  Then as I turn 50 later this month – I too shall share in this birthday wish.

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Dealing With Death In High School

For the second time this school year, our high school suffered a death in the student body.  Dealing with death in high school is unfortunate, but not new.  What is different I suppose is the way generations handle the loss both in person and on social media.

During the last week of the summer a boy in 16.5’s junior class killed himself.  We live in a small school district and the kids were clearly upset.  (I tend to think some of the energy spent on grieving was reflective of others in the grade.)  Instagram accounts were full of tributes to the boy.  On the community pages on Facebook there was sometimes (in my opinion) over wrought hand wringing asking how could this happen here? How could the signs be missed?

A couple of weeks ago, as winter break was ending tragedy struck 14.5’s freshman class when a boy was rundown (accidentally) crossing a major roadway near our house.   There’s probably more to the story – but you can see the reaction of the kids in all of the grades at the high school the loss was felt.

When I took 14.5 and some of her friends to the corner 24 hours after the accident to leave flowers and remember their friend – each took out their phone and commemorated the moment on Snapchat.  Back on the community pages of Facebook was the same hand wringing asking how could this happen here?  In this case, there was also a link to an accident a couple of years ago that claimed another life.

Perhaps – one day – the intersection will be made safer.  Perhaps one day the lessons of the immediate past will be learned and used.

For now though dealing with death in high school is a generational process – and it plays out across social media.  I can think back to my high school days, I can remember four of my classmates passing during my years at Carey High School on Long Island.  One was murdered, one (maybe two) died from cancer and one was in a car accident.

Dealing with death in high school in the 80’s though was (in my opinion) a much more solemn moment – not commemorated with pictures and posts – but with shared memories and a few hugs.

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Six Years Later – The Snow Day

Through the magic of Facebook, I was reminded this week about some updates made in years gone by about snow days.  As near as I can tell I’ve written about them for six years.  Now six years later the snow day is a little different.

It’s been a while since I wrote here – not that there’s nothing going on.  Maybe its the opposite and too much is going on and getting to the end of the day and then writing just doesn’t happen.  Today wasn’t too different, except during this snow day – I took time to think about the changes in six years.

Flashback to when the girls were 10 and eight.  Snow days were much different.  The day was very hands on.  There was likely a trip to someone’s house (or having someone over), there was the juggle of trying to do work and keep the girls entertained and there was the sense that the day would never end.

Six years later the snow day is much different.  Today really started last night after 14.5 finished her tennis.  I dropped her at her friend’s house with a vague plan of how and when I would pick her up.  16.5 was home all day doing homework and working on prep for upcoming ACT and SAT tests.

I spent the day quietly working (I think I had eight calls and a constant email flow) and making a big pan of lasagna for the next couple of weeks.  Completely hands off to my kids for the day – other than cutting off some lasagna for dinner.

Six years later, the snow day is really another day – it would be nice if the girls were at school, but we all went about it.

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Finally I Can Yearn for the Good Old Days

in lineGenerally speaking, I am not one to pine for the good old days – way back when life was easier in the early to mid 1980’s (way back then).  I like to think at least I am someone who embraces life today and cherishes the moment.  But after taking 16.5 to register for driver’s ed, finally I can yearn for the good old days.

Perhaps because we were recently talking about it, or perhaps I just remember – but the fact that there was nothing momentous about my registering for driver’s ed.  That’s a stark contrast to the 90 minutes we spent tonight getting the deed done.

Way back in the old days of 1984 (or maybe it was early 1985) I took a form a check and walked up to the office at the school where I took driver’s ed and I was done.  Tonight, we walked into the high school up the road, and there was easily 75 kids (and assorted parents) on a line snaking through the front hallway and down an adjoining corridor.

There were two women in the school’s office taking checks and forms – and writing (as in pen to paper) names on lists.  One of the parents commented that in 2016, there should be a better way…

Yeah I thought, they could do it like they did way back in 1984.  It wasn’t an event.  It really should not have been memorable.  In contrast I suppose it will be.

So, finally I can yearn for the good old days.  The days when putting pen to paper and handing in a check wasn’t an evening out – it was just another stop along the way.

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8765 Times 6

RisaThere are 8765 hours in a year, 52,590 of them have ticked off since Risa passed away.  Probably because of the timing, it becomes a strange time of year for me (and I think for my girls as well).  While the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of year,” there are probably more than just me who would stop and question that.  8765 times 6 – there’s a lot to think about.

Who’d have thunk there would come a time I have two teen-aged girls in high school – much less thriving in that environment.  16.5 is in honor roll and 15.0 is pulling a low 90 GPA.  Far better than I ever did, clearly taking after their mom.

Along with a second transition to high school, we’ve (and I say we because it’s been the three of us)  conquered an introduction to driving, a change of sport from softball to tennis, a job change for me and just getting through another 8765 hours with the rest of life’s challenges.

Reflecting this time of year is probably normal – give or take this is when people (who make them) will begin to think about New Year’s resolutions.

I was chatting with a friend who is also widowed – and we were talking about how tough this time of year can be as an only parent where you’re dealing with the family and everyone is happy.  And it’s not to say we’re not happy – but there is a part missing.

What would Risa think about her girls excelling in school? I know how proud I am of it and I know she would be proud too – but what would she think?

And would 16.5 be a different (maybe better, maybe worse) driver if there was another voice offering guidance?  I don’t know.  We don’t have that second voice, and I don’t pretend there is a second voice.

In the last 8765 hours 15.0 made a change from softball to varsity tennis.  She walked onto the tennis court just before Labor Day this year and became a tennis player and has taken to the sport with determination.  I know Risa was a very determined person as well, happy to see she’s taken on the best of the traits.

16.5 entered the working world over the summer and excelled as a lifeguard at a water park near our house.  She embraced the challenge of working and becoming responsible – maturing into a woman.  Now we begin thinking about test prep and college search.  I know those are the parts of life Risa would have cherished, and despite the challenges I know it’s a time I will cherish with her and her sister.

15.0 has also become expressive in art – a skill I only wish I had, but again its a skill her mother possessed.  I can’t help but smile when I walk into her room and see her work on display on the walls.

And because managing life with me and two teen-aged girls isn’t quite challenging enough I decided to change jobs this year too.  It was one of those situations where it was time to make a change and the right opportunity came along – but its in those moments where I try to think through important changes, don’t really have that life partner to talk to and know I’m about to make a life changing decision – the clock slows down, and a few of those 8765 hours feel like days at a time.

I wonder, what would Risa think about all of this?  Am I doing the right thing?  Would my father be proud of life I’ve created for my family?

I’d like to think the answer is yes – because that will help get me through the next 8765 hours and changes our lives will face again.

 

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The Rigged Election Insult

rigged-electionsGenerally speaking, I try to avoid politics as much as possible in this blog – for a bunch of reasons including there are so many other places for that, there is no upside to being political sometimes and generally everyone has an opinion.  However during this election cycle, since my kids are talking about this a lot in school – one recurring theme bothers me; the talk of a rigged election is an insult to everyone.

Rather than getting into the politics of the candidates or their positions – I’d rather look at the sentiment of standing before the American people and telling them (with a mostly straight face) that the electoral process is rigged (one way or another).

It’s insulting to hear someone striving to become the president of the United States say our election process – which thousands have died to protect – is rigged.  It’s self-sustaining hubris to even take that as a position.

I live in a state where there is no “early voting”  In fact, I had never even heard of early voting until Risa and I moved to Texas in 1997 – and while in Texas, the state legislature there in what it said was an attempt to stop voter fraud enacted ID rules at polling places that have since been mimicked around the country.  The goal of these laws was to stop voter fraud – you know, rigging an election.

When I vote, I refuse to sign any additional paper other than the official registry.  That is my commitment to voting – signing the registry and casting my ballot.  One man, one vote.  In a couple of years 16.5 will be able to vote, and I expect her to follow suit.

But how does a candidate think it’s OK to say the election is rigged?  Because the don’t like what is said about them on TV?  That’s not a reason to claim I and everyone else who goes to vote is taking part in a fraud.  In fact, by my reading of election law in New York State would make me a felon – to knowingly cast a vote in a rigged election.  Is that what I am being accused of?

It’s a bad argument.  In fact, talk of the rigged election is an insult to us all.

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A Few Quiet Moments

A Few Quiet MomentsAlthough it wasn’t by (my) design – I had the house to myself last night.  But it’s a few quiet moments this morning – while the girls are sleeping upstairs that seems more relaxing to me.

Maybe it’s because I’m a little better rested this morning.  Maybe it’s because I’m not in a flurry of text messages with the girls over who is where and when they are coming home….

Or maybe it’s because I tend to be a morning person (now).

There was a time when I was able to sleep well past 10 in the morning.  Now sleeping to 830 is sleeping in for me.  But that time has become some of the most productive of the day for me.

Whether I am out getting the weekly food shopping done, getting to the gym, heading out to the trails for a bike ride or a run – or simply catching up – getting a few quiet moments in the day isn’t so bad.

Despite having those moments last night – there is no way to gauge the productivity as I sat on the couch watching Chopped and hockey.

So, coffee at my side I get some writing done here and on a few work projects (even on a Sunday) and try to figure out how else to make use of a few quiet moments – before getting into the crux of the day.

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Driving Lessons

Driving LessonsThis right of passage – giving driving lessons to a teenaged child – is not one faced by single (only) parents – but it’s been a unique challenge for me as an only parent to conquer, I think largely because it involves facing the fact that I have to give up some control.

Thinking back, I can remember the year from when I turned 16 (when you can get a learner’s permit) to when I turned 17 (when you can get your license) as a long year.  I remember doing the math and realizing although it seemed like it took forever to reach 16 (and 17) eventually I would be driving for more years in my life that I wasn’t.

So, I focused on learning to drive – both with my mom’s help and driving lessons and working for just about anyone who would pay me – so I could get a car the day I got my license.  For me, a car was freedom – the same way my bicycle was freedom when I was 10.

Now teaching 16.0 to drive is a whole new experience.

While I like to think I’m not a control freak, keeping things under control is important to me.  There is a definite sense of loss of control when you turn your 16-year old loose (even when you’re in the passenger’s seat and she’s in a parking lot) with your hard-earned automobile.

While I expect her to take a full driver’s ed course over the winter into the spring ahead of her June birthday – I’m trying to teach her how to be situationally smart while driving.  How to make decisions, and not what decisions to make (the model I’ve used for the last 6 years).

But now it’s hard to try to let her make decisions and sit there quietly while our safety (and my car) is on the line.

Slowly we’re getting there.  We’ve been out of parking lots a little and working on practical driving stuff (I’ll leave the technical teaching to the professionals).  And I’m slowly learning my driving lessons while I teach driving lessons to my daughter.

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