Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What wasn't working? Me daily reminding the kids to practice their guitar, for if I didn't, they wouldn't. I was tired of this, reminding them everyday, I was done. I wanted to empower them to do it for themselves. This is what we agreed on.

New Deal: They would practice 6 x 15 minutes/week. They could do 15 minutes a day or they could do an hour and 1/2 at one time - one day. If they completed this new agreement, they could have their technology the next week - ipods, computers (for anything other than homework), TV, and cell phone (the older one).

I have been a solo day for really the last 6 weeks. My wife's dad passed away and she's been in LA for weeks. And the time she was here, before he passed she wasn't really here, so I picked up all the kids stuff I could so she could do what she needed to.

Well guess how the first week of the experiment went? No one practiced at all! Ha.... that's crazy! SO they lost their privileges for the week.

SO this week - so far. The younger one will probably make it. The older one hasn't practiced once - can you believe that, and she's the cell phone facebook myspace email socialite. Go figure.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Silence & Boundaries after 2500 Miles

I am being a solo dad for about two weeks while my wife is in LA supporting her family after her father passed away.

Sat. AM I drove back from LA for the 4th time in a month - the kids and I figured that combined was about 36 hours of driving - oh my back. Luckily we had a book on tape that caught our attention - The Nation by Terry Pratchett. A young adult story about 2 kids from different worlds lost on an island together.

The drive is long and long and long, it's basically 5 1/2 hours @ 75mph on a straight, straight, straight road that goes through the central valley of California. I got home and eventually made it to the gym's hot tub, a place where I know God lives, it's one of my churches. Back at home, the older kid took of for a sleep-over and I just crashed on a chair writing in my journal about the last few days, the memorial service, all the people who showed up. At the service alone there was close to 1000 people giving their respect.

An interesting note about my father-in-law. He was a world-giver and always supported the under-dog in other cultures and politics. He was also a difficult man to get close to and his immediate family felt this the most. By getting sick and then dying, he came home in a way that they had always wanted, his children bonded in ways they always wanted, and there was a great deal of deep healing for everyone. It was truly a beautiful thing.

Back to Sat. night and being exhausted. My younger daughter wanted to watch a movie, get on the computer, do something with me. I sensed she wanted to be distracted. I told her I was so tired I was just going to write and be quiet and if she wanted to read, draw, she was welcomed to hang out with me. I didn't think she needed a movie or computer, I sensed otherwise. She didn't like this at all and got upset.

Her god-father had recently given her a bag of presents, inside were a new unopened deck of cards called Self-Care Cards by Cheryl Richardson. She didn't want them and I kept em. They were on the table, I opened them up and before I shuffled them I fanned them out in my hands and invited my daughter to pick one.

She picked SILENCE. It read, "Rest your mind. Silence is good self-care." She instantly said, " I don't like this card!" We picked a few more cards, one for mom, her sister, me, and one for us. I picked TENDERNESS. It read, "Speak gently to yourself. Cherish the child within." The card we picked together was BOUNDARIES. It read, " Set boundaries. Protect your precious time and energy."

The next hour or so was pretty messed up. My daughter would just not drop in, she got more and more desperate to have something external help her escape. I felt it, felt her pain, and didn't have it in me to fix her. I kept inviting her to join me on the couch. She tried, cried, begged, called mom in LA. I kept clear, healthy boundaries. I even gave myself a timeout so I wouldn't get triggered and get angry. In the end she fell asleep early laying on the couch, laying on the dog. That was good for everyone.

I was glad I let her work it through. It was very difficult to not get triggered, or to give in when my truth was that I was exhausted and if I did, it would of been a lie, or if I just let her disappear into TV or a TV show on the computer, it would of been a cop-out.

The Art of Being A Dad

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Homage to my Dad-in-Law

Walter (Wally) Nathan Marks II passed over yesterday from cancer, surrounded by his loving family. It was a beautiful and amazing experience for me, my wife (his oldest kid), and my girls. He gave a lot for the world and always supported the underdog. He was also a reclusive man who enjoyed a piano and many newspapers.

Monday morning I drove home with one kid (the other had a different spring break week). We left at 1am, just happened that way, I had planned to sleep but my body had another idea. 5 1/2 hours later we arrived in the Bay Area from LA. My older daughter stayed at her grandparent's house where we had all been camping out. Wally had slipped into a coma several days ago.

The amazing thing was that his 50th wedding anniversary. We had a beautiful ceremony and then Wally passed on the next day. The cool thing was that my oldest kid (almost 14) wanted to be there, wanted to be in the room, she kept coming back in while we all took turns sitting with him. She even spent time with him alone.

I talked to her yesterday. She said that she, and everyone else were in the room as he took his last breath. She said she later touched him, "I've never touched a dead person, and it was my grandfather!" I told her what she had just learned over the last week was equal to a college education - and it could only be learned by her showing up in the way that she did!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Making Fires and Using Sharp Tools

For the last 14 years, I have been in dad mode daily. I have co-parented as a freelance artist who is married to a freelance writer. I worked many late nights as everyone was sleeping, and in the early days changed diapers and got the baby bottles warmed to feed the little people.

This weekend my wife was away visiting her father who is passing away from cancer - blessings to everyone! I stayed home with the kids who are now basically teenagers - 2 girls. I have been aware that my time as dad is coming to a close. I should say a certain phase of my being a dad is ending. The best way to describe it is where the girls are beginning to go/grow. They are moving into a place where dad's don't go, where dad's can't go, they are going into the world of young women.

I am turning them over to their mom, to the social and hormone world of girls, shopping, fashion, bras, emotions, and make-up.

I will still and always be dad.

Over the weekend I helped them start a fire and use sharp tools. The younger one wanted to make a fire outside in our fire pit - sure go for it! She started to ask questions, someone recently called them "dumb" questions. How much wood, how much paper, etc... She has made plenty of fires. I invited her to answer these questions for herself through direct experience. She doesn't like when I do this but I know I will do her a dis-service if I tell her step by step how to do it. I was near by and did offer my suggestions when I saw that it would benefit her and the learning process and her becoming independant, confident, and self reliant.

The older one was working on a science project. I set her up with an matte knife, steel ruler, cardboard, and gave her a cutting careful with a sharp tool lesson and let her go at it. Very cool.

I am also asking them to each make a meal per week, and check this out.... my new idea of not having to remind them "every day" to practice their guitar. Over the week they have 6 slots of 15 minutes to practice to fill up. If they do that they can use technology next week (computers, ipods, ect..), if not, you get the picture. This week is the trail, so far they have failed miserably.

"The Art of Being A Dad"
130 Tips, Tools, Tricks of the Trade

1. Whole Start. Before you conceive or soon afterwards, get out into nature by yourself. Spend some time alone, take a road trip, a walk. Imagine that you are taking care of business and connecting with something deeper, wider, and greater than yourself. Ask the powers that be to have healthy kids, ask to be a great dad, ask for help because you will definitely need it later.

2. Celebrate becoming a dad. Do something special for yourself to celebrate becoming a dad. Use the time when baby is inside mom in a significant way. It may appear that all the work is happening inside mom while she is pregnant, but there is a great deal happening inside of you too.

3. Feel connected. Do something to help you feel connected to your baby while they are still in mom’s belly. I lit a candle and kept one burning the entire time of our pregnancy as a way for me to symbolically hold the light for my baby and feel connected.

4. Be the ground at the birth. Both mom and baby need you to be fully present during the birth. Breathe slowly, feel your feet on the floor, keep your eyes open, it’s a once in a lifetime experience.

5. Don’t take it personally. You may feel ignored or not needed during the intensity of labor. Trust that everyone is doing what they need to do and your job is to support and do what your partner needs you to do.

6. Who are they? If you pay attention as your child is born you may be able to get a sense of who they are. And any good stories you gather then you will be able to tell to your kids for the rest of their lives.

7. Not about you. Helpful hint: The next few years are NOT going to be about you. Most of the core bonding happens with mom and baby. Your time will come later when it’s you that they want and need.