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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Respecting Change

Solution 1 2 or 3 Choice Showing Strategy Options Decisions Or SolvingOver the years – as the girls have gotten older I’ve tried to enable them to make more decisions.  Sometimes those decisions are minor (what’s for lunch) and sometimes they are bigger (picking out a dress for a party).  As they’ve gotten older I’ve worked hard to support their decisions – even when I disagreed.   In that I hope they’ve learned about respecting change.

When the girls were younger – in a lot of ways life was simpler.  I would pick the meal, pick the clothes or the bed time.  As they’ve gotten older and become young women – those decisions have been ceded and sometimes with some effort I’ve been respecting change.

Heading into Thanksgiving week is always a mixed bag for me.  Thanksgiving is actually one of the holidays I like.  But it runs head long into the week when Risa passed.  From there we jump into the holidays, and then the long days of winter.

The change cycle though seems to keep moving.  And rather than fighting it, I think I’ve realized respecting change is just as important as realizing it’s out there.

So, 14.0 has given up softball after more than eight years to focus on tennis.  Her decision to make.  I respect that.

So, 16.5 declares her independence with authority.  Her prerogative as teen for sure – and I respect that.

Respecting change is probably a healthy approach – but certainly not an easy plan to carry out.  Day-to-day, with my eyes wide open I try to learn something new from my girls and day-to-day they make decisions – and I try to respect them.

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Spring Time Of Year Again

spring into summerEven though the weather here in NY is very un-spring like, given all the stuff going on it’s spring for sure.  This spring is going to unfurl into a different kind of summer here, as only one of the girls is going to camp.  Make no doubt about it though, it is the spring time of year again.  But before that, we still have to navigate softball, track, finals, packing and new this year getting 16.0 ready for a job.

I’m hoping I am not short-changing the packing this year.  My thought is since it’s only one going to camp I don’t need all the time needed to pack, so 13.5 is not yet started camp packing.  We’ll see how that goes.

For 16.0, she’ll be lifeguarding at a water park about 30 minutes from the house.  What I hope she appreciates (I’ve said it to her exactly this way) getting her to her job is not my job.  Hopefully there will be carpools and the occasional über.

In the meantime – both girls need to keep focus on the end of the school year.  13.5 blustered her way through a research paper this weekend, and 16.0 has already taken an AP test.

So, packing will start soon for camp.  16.0 begins work over Memorial Day weekend – it’s spring time of year again – lot’s to get done before summer sets in, no matter what the weather is like.

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Walking Down Memory Lane

memory laneThis weekend 12.5 not only becomes 13.0 but she’ll celebrate her bat mitzvah on her birthday (Saturday).  One of the tasks I own for the event (as I did two year’s ago for her sister’s) is making the montage.  This is a romp through picture and some video of the first 13 years of their life.  Once again I dragged my feet to get this done – because walking down memory lane is not the easiest of things for me to do.

So this week, while juggling the softball schedule for 12.5, the soccer schedule for 15.0, the work schedule for the single dad and keeping the house up and running – I dove through boxes of pictures and flipped through the digital files of the last 13 years to pull together the images and moments that will help sum up 12.5’s life in about nine and a half minutes.

Along the way were reminders of the life l had 20 or more years ago.  I can remember (most) of the moments captured on film (yes film) and the happy times that seem so long ago.

Tucked away in a box is an album of pictures from the trip Risa and I took where we got engaged.  In the back of a closet were pictures from the road trip Risa and I took when we moved to Dallas.  In the basement (in a box from our move to our house) were pictures of 15.0’s day of birth and the time I took her sledding when she was maybe two years old.

Thinking back, when it was 15.0 getting her bat mitzvah I am sure I waited to the last-minute to do the montage.  I know like this time I waited to the last-minute to write my speech.

Getting the girls’ through their bat mitzvah was important to Risa – and something I want them to experience.  So even with the uncomfort of walking down memory lane, there is the reality that I am keeping the girls connected to their mother.

Standing up and trying to share this with 12.5 on Saturday (and a temple full of friends and family) is a whole other challenge.  But for today – that’s not the one I am facing.  There are people who relish walking down memory lane – I’m probably not one of them.

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The Staycation-Adjusting Along The Way

staycationIn a first for us – I am taking a week off from work, and we’re not going anywhere.  Call it a staycation of sorts – but largely we’re not home.  For the staycation to work we’ll be adjusting along the way right until school starts a week from Tuesday.

Part of the issue is school starting a week before Labor Day – so the summer that was already feeling very short just got even shorter.

This staycation starts each day at Camp Good Grief where 15.0 is a counselor for the 11-year-old group and 12.5 is in her final (OK extra) year as a camper.  Normally when we do this, I work the week from a Starbucks near where the camp is being held.  But this year I decided to take the week off – because after camp ends at three in the afternoon – more running around ensues.

15.0 has soccer practice each evening from five to seven-30 and 12.5 has softball practice three times this week from five-30 to seven-30.  In between we’ll try to eat something, get hydrated and I may even get to the gym a few times this week.

In year’s past I was able to work out my schedule to be able to do calls and meetings while the girls were at camp, and then catch up after camp.  It won’t work this year.  And because there is not another week off before school starts, we’ll still have to fit in some last-minute back to school stuff.

A trip to the mall or at least a store to get sneakers will be an evening jaunt this year.  The hour or so to set up the locker and walk the schedule looks like it will be done in stealth mode on the day before school – when the teachers are there but there aren’t supposed to be students around.

With all of that going on – and a lot of vacation time available, I figured take one thing out of the picture – so here I am on “vacation” trying to cram more into a day than normal.  For the staycation, adjusting along the way will be the key to success.

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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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Just E-Mail Dad

Generation Z EmailFor all of the ubiquity that email offers us in the workplace, at home, in commerce and purchasing – I’ve come to realize for my kids (and I would suspect others in Generation Z) email is a necessity simply to register for apps and other things – and not a means of communication.  When a message needs to be delivered, my girls just leave it with a simple, “just email dad” when it comes time for them to give out their email address.

I first realized this when 12.5’s softball coach asked for her email so she could get team updates directly.  She politely but directly told her coach, “Just email dad, I have the girls on the team on group chat.”  The use case was re-emphasized this week when 15.0’s soccer coach started sending out updates for summer workouts.  They come straight to me, her email is not even on the distribution.

For those of us in the semi-modern workplace, email management is almost part of the job.  For me and most of my co-workers, a day with 100 or more work emails is the norm.  Add to that personal emails account(s) and I can easily deal with more than 500 emails a day.

The reality is most of them are either deleted before looking at them, or deleted after a quick look at the subject line only – but that is the way email management works.  For Gen Z though, it’s just not the case.  The most relevant statistics I could find are from 2012 – and I would suspect the trend that showed three years ago continues:

  • Of 1000 people from eight to 17 only half said they use email on a daily basis as a means to communicate – trailing talking, texting and social networks.
  • When looking at a sub class of that 1000 asked in the age group of 13-17 email usage falls to under 25%.
  • 25% of that 1000 say they check messages (text, email and social media) within the first five minutes of waking up.  More than half (52%) say they have checked within the first hour of being away.
  • The 13-17 year old sub class of that group has already sent more than 50 text messages or social network updates in that time.  Total email messages sent is fewer than 10.

In a business sense, this means connecting with this generation – which the same study says has “desirable and disposable” income means changing up from the new traditional marketing (email) to a new paradigm of social marketing and leveraging channels like Snap Chat and other emerging platforms.

In a practical sense though, if you want to get hold of my kids and don’t know how to text them, “just email dad”  apparently I deliver messages more efficiently than the post office.

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Turning to the Final Quarter

A Sprung SpringWith spring here in NY finally in full effect, report cards for the third quarter were posted today (both girls are north of 90 on the GPA’s), we make the turn to the final quarter and head for the summer.  Historically, the fourth quarter of the school year is the toughest to manage with commitments and events dotted all over our schedules.  Oh yeah, I also have to get the girls ready for camp.

On the hectic schedule over the next few weeks are several bat mitzvah’s that 12.5 will go to.  14.5 is wrapping up her spring track season at school.  We are doing another survival run.  12.5 has a spring concert coming up and 14.5 will turn 15.

In between all of that, we have to swing by the post office to update passports for both girls (although only 14.5 will need hers this summer), do a bunch of shopping for camp stuff and begin to get serious about 12.5’s bat mitzvah in October.

We may be turning to the final quarter (of the school year), and the break for camp is less than 60 days away – but as we head to the home stretch the heavy lifting is still ahead of us.

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Actions and Reactions

action and reaction The last few days have made me realize it was time to instill a few new lessons.  And maybe I didn’t handle it as well as I could – but my girls will learn that in life there are actions and reactions – and sometimes even consequences like a tough conversation with peers, or having to face up to our own decisions.

In a lot of ways, my girls have had to grow up a little faster than I would like, so I’ve tried to shelter them some from certain moments in life.  I’ve tried to help them through some uncomfortable moments, take the lead with teachers and parents when tough discussions had to be had.

It may be time though for them to face up to more of their actions and the reactions they’ll get from others.  The goal is not to unleash the world on them, but to make them understand the Yin and Yang of life.

Case study one came Sunday.  We spent the early part of the weekend skiing, and got home around nine Saturday night.  I was up around 7AM (normal for the weekend) and did my shopping and hit the gym.  I came home around 11 and found 12.5 up and messing around on her phone.  I told her she had an hour and a half to her softball practice and a little more than an hour before we had to leave.  I even made her breakfast.

After eating, I told her practice started in about 40 minutes and we needed to leave in 20 to be on time.    40 minutes later, she came down the stairs, and we set out on a 20 minute drive to her practice five minutes before it started.

She put her headphones in and didn’t say a word to me during the drive – so I had time to think.  I decided she would have to walk in alone and explain to her teammates why she was 20 minutes late.  I’m not sure she understood or even realized what I was doing, but that’s OK for now.

Case study two came tonight when I picked up 14.5 from play rehearsal at school.  Among her activities is a class at our temple that meets once a month.  The session this month conflicts with the rehearsal schedule.  We talked about her going to her temple class on Wednesday.  When she got into the car today she asked if she could skip the class.

In a moment I’d like to have back I abruptly told her yes, but she had to inform the rabbi and cantor she would not be in class this week.  It’s her decision, not mine and she can live with it.

In calming down from that conversation I realized that maybe I had been making things too easy on both girls – and they don’t realize that actions and reactions have consequences.  So, now my new campaign is to help them learn this little life lesson.

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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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