Tag Archives: parenting

How to talk to kids about the end of democracy

Dr. Seuss’s art

This is not really a how-to essay. I’ve always hated anyone telling me how to raise my kids or giving me books about parenting.

But we’re living in the last days of the American constitutional federal representative democracy, and we have front-row seats to its rapid descent into hell.

What better teaching moment could you possibly ask for? Continue reading How to talk to kids about the end of democracy

An alternate universe in each of my sons

The 303 train from Chicago to Blue Island broke down last night, leaving me stranded in Chicago waiting for a later train.

Unfortunately, that meant I’d miss my son’s track meet.

He sent me this text just as my train pulled up to the Vermont Street stop where I park my car.

Carson RunsWhat’s unique about this text, is that it stems from a conversation we had last night while sitting around a small table at Chipotle.

It’s been a long two-weeks of sickness around our house, with everyone dealing with a combination of allergies and head colds, with a little strep throat thrown in for good measure. We needed to buy Carson a pair of running shoes for his track meet on Friday, so I made an executive decision to eat out, which is rare for us.

Continue reading An alternate universe in each of my sons

Pervasive Fear and Loathing in the Suburbs: Leaving your children home alone

Tools like Find my iPhone allow parents to track their children's whereabouts.
Tools like Find my iPhone allow parents to track their children’s whereabouts.

I want to establish something at the beginning of this post. My parents are amazing. They are loving, caring, protective and responsible.

The reason I say this, is because what they did to me as a child, directly relates to the way I’m raising my own children.

I don’t remember how old I was the first time I was left alone.

From the stories I’ve been told, I was a bit of a wanderer, often disappearing, leaving my parents to find me preaching to a crowd or singing songs in front of whatever audience I could find.

Continue reading Pervasive Fear and Loathing in the Suburbs: Leaving your children home alone

Asheville, The Art of War and Cheryl Strayed

IMG_7658I started writing this from the Chili’s across from the Comfort Inn we’re staying at in Dentsville, South Carolina tonight.

The kids are staring at me after I just scolded them for replying to the waitress with their typical “ya,” or barely discernible grunt meant to infer  that yes, they would indeed like fries with their burger.

“This is the South, where people are polite, and when they ask you if you want fries with your burger, you say yes please,” I told them.

They replied with those barely discernible grunts meant to infer that they indeed understood what I was saying.

After a long evening with Jon in Cincinnati, I was up early, as is my usual habit. I showered, dressed and sat in bed for a while waiting to wake my sleeping wife and kids.

Continue reading Asheville, The Art of War and Cheryl Strayed

When your son wants to open a Scotch and Cigar bar in Brooklyn

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 10.15.14 PMDinner is a rush of passed dishes, clanking silverware and clinking glasses filled to the top with skim milk, or, perhaps wine.

Once we settle into our food and conversation, we usually meander casually around everyone’s daily experiences or football, to which my wife and daughter roll their eyes and try desperately to change the subject.

Last night Carson opened the evening with this one –

“I want to open a Scotch and cigar bar in Brooklyn.”

It’s not the most surprising thing he’s ever said.

But it made me smile, because he had no fear of putting himself out there on the line for judgement and ridicule, which families are exceedingly good at doling out.

Continue reading When your son wants to open a Scotch and Cigar bar in Brooklyn

The Blacksmith

BlacksmithI stopped in to the bar on my way home from work to finish up a couple of emails.

Bringing work home with me, especially work that stresses me out, is against whatever rules I’ve set up for myself.

I ordered an IPA from Michigan and sat sipping the thick, frothy top off a malty, hoppy bomb of a beer minding my own business.

I know the owner, Dave, well, and we shot the shit for a little while, as we do. I got the lay of the beer board and finished up my emails.

For a few minutes, I sat there, silently, just soaking in the dark wood, the sounds of the pin ball games and Operation Ivy’s “Unity” playing on the sound system.

Continue reading The Blacksmith

The Two Graces

http://www.columbusmuseum.org/blog/collection/the-two-graces/
The Two Graces – Oil on canvas – by Odilon Redon

This is one of those weeks or, rather, two-week stretches that we don’t have any time designation for, but you learn to dread them when you’re not in the midst of one of them.

My wife worked 10-days straight at a mismanaged Starbucks, and it left some scars.

The younger kids had a half day of school on Friday, and they made plans, but the oldest had school all day, so they had to cancel their plans, which made for a miserable dinner table conversation on Thursday.

There are nights where our robust family dinner-table discussions descend into a circus only Fellini could appreciate.

Lest you think we’re any more put together than you are.

Continue reading The Two Graces

Dinner Table Conversations: Philosophy, Physics & Religion

Sometimes the questions make me swallow hard.

It’s a way for me to process them before I attempt to answer.

Being a dad is not the easiest job I’ve ever had.

That was working at Burger King when I was 16.

Tonight started off with politics.

Continue reading Dinner Table Conversations: Philosophy, Physics & Religion

The Boy in the Mirror: Raising Yourself

He came bounding out of the school wearing an old Easter outfit I recognized from a few years ago.

He’s not the paragon of fashion, and I’m okay with that as long as he is.

It was a dark mint shirt with a striped tie where one stripe matched a shade of the shirt. Khaki cargo trousers and a belt rounded out the ensemble.

“How was your presentation?” I asked, sort of feebly.

Continue reading The Boy in the Mirror: Raising Yourself

The kids are alright, until they’re not

image

There are many stages in parenting, and I have no idea which one I’m currently in. 

I despise parenting advice, so this isn’t advice, in fact, don’t take it as advice. It’s just an experience I’ve had recently. Take it for what it’s worth. 

When your children are born, they are very needy, and your entire life is given over to them. 

Well, your wife’s entire life is given over to them. If you’re a dad, you try to help out where you can, but the blowouts and the, um, feeding, tend to fall into mom’s lap, generally. 

When they get a little older, they gain some independence, and this is both awesome and terrible at the same time. 

They can hold their head up on their own, they can roll over on the bed, which means you don’t have to wake up panicked in the middle of the night fearing your child has expired from sudden infant death syndrome. 

But they can roll off the bed too, which means you suddenly have some freedom, but you also have a different kind of responsibility too. 

Then they learn to walk, and this is exquisite, because you don’t think you can carry them through that Saturday Market one more time. 

And it’s awful too, because now they can run out into the street or disappear in the grocery store. 

For every ounce of independence they gain, parents get a change in responsibility. Children learn things very fast. Their brains are capable of these massive influxes of information. 

As adults, we are losing brain cells and starting to slow down a bit. This has always been a strange dichotomy to me. 

Then there is this interesting moment where your children are old enough to have really intelligent conversations at dinner and where you go to museums together and enjoy good food. 

As a father, you look around at the dinner table at night, and you’re really proud of this little family you helped create. They’re smart and funny and fun to be around. 

And it’s so brief. 

If and when you recognize this moment, it’s too late. You’re already at the end of this golden age. 

Our oldest son became old enough to babysit when we moved to Montana in 2007. This was a righteous blessing for us, since we hadn’t really had a nice hour or two away from the kids in years. 

By the time we moved to Alaska in 2009, the kids were old enough to cook for themselves and generally police their own lives, which gave us a little more independence. 

And then we moved to Chicago in 2012, and we spent the first two months really enjoying each other’s company. Of course I can only speak for myself here. But it’s really true. We had nice meals out in the big, oak-lined backyard. We watched fireflies at night and my wife and I sipped on ice-cold, bone-dry rose while the kids cleaned up the dishes. 

We watched movies together on the really hot days. We went to the beach together and spent Sundays exploring Chicago’s many food choices. 

And then that moment came. 

I was sitting at dinner, and the kids were asking deep questions about world affairs and politics. I felt like the king of the castle. 

Everyone was happy and smiling. It was perfect. 

And then it was gone. 

It might have flickered a little through the winter, there were a few moments here and there, but when the spring rolled around, the kids were gone. 

Off to spend the night at a friend’s house or hanging out at the mall. Skateboarding with the crew from down the street, or flirting with the neighbor girls. 

Even the little one, the joy of my heart, is often gone away to some friend’s house when I come home from work. 

This same one used to run at me full speed whenever I got home. I had to institute a no-hugs-until-I-took-my-shoes-off rule. 

When we go on adventures on the weekends now, the boys automatically opt out, and if I force them to go, they will find a way to ruin the entire experience. If you think teenage girls are moody, I have two boys who say it’s an equal opportunity emotional roller coaster. 

Yes, yes, I realize this is all part of growing up. I understand that this happens. I just wish that I had paid attention enough during the times when everything was perfect. I wish I didn’t just recognize it that last time. 

As I said, I have no idea what stage I’m in currently. Maybe there are a few bad ones before a good one rolls around again.

And this is not advice, merely one man’s experience. Take it for what it’s worth. 

But if you look around your dinner table at night and see your kids elevating the conversation to new levels in an artful way or challenging you with good questions, stop and relish that moment for a bit. 

Because chances are you’re already close to the end of it. 

Peace