Tag Archives: Parenting

Open Letter To My Younger Self

I have become a fan of The Players’ Tribune. A couple of my favorite essays are from Danny Woodhead and Ray Allen. (Not to mention the recent essay from Isaiah Thomas, but his doesn’t fit this blog theme). Danny and Ray write a letter to their younger selves. I wrote a blog similar to this idea, “Staying True To My Younger Self,” but it focused on my writing.

I’ll turn 46 in a few weeks. And this thought about what advice I would give my younger self keeps storming my heart. So, I thought I would get the idea out onto paper…

Dear Younger Me,

It is amazing to think that I am just over the halfway mark of this life. The first half seemed to take so long to happen, all the change and growth and heartache that has occurred in these 46 years is crazy to think about. But, the years seem to be gaining speed, and life is going by way too fast. The oldest son is a junior in high school and the youngest daughter just turned four. I have had five different professional positions. We have a minivan with almost 100,000 miles and still a few months to pay it off!

Be ready, you are going to need to work on a few things. This letter is going to be tough to write, I hope you understand it when you read it.

First, forgive them. Everyone. Do it now because if you don’t, each day adds weight to your heart and it becomes harder to forgive. In fact I still haven’t. I can’t seem to let go of the pain and disappointment and the what ifs. Ironically, part of the problem is the work you will do to create a better life for yourself and your family. I’m not father or husband of the year, but the dinner table is often filled with laughter. There are hugs and bedtime stories. Movie nights with too much candy and simple moments of joy that take my breath away. But I haven’t forgiven certain people. You know who I mean, so forgive them as soon as you can. You can still live your own life without them, but your heart won’t be burden with the weight of anger and pain.

Second, I hope you read this in time, but don’t quit football. Don’t make that mistake. It will be your greatest regret.  Also, write more, push to become the writer you have always dreamed of since elementary school.  I’ve learned that the door of opportunity only stays open for so long before it closes. And when you choose to close that door, it can get locked and you have to let a dream die. Football. Other dreams can still be achieved. Writing. But you have to find an unlocked window to climb through. And sometimes that window is on the forty third floor. You have to struggle more than if you would have truly pursue your goals when the door was open.

Third, tell people thank you and that you love them. Let them in. Not everyone. But the people who are helping you, sometimes believing in you when you are not. You might think you will have time, but you won’t. Mr. Holt will pass away before you can tell him thank you for believing in you. There are others, like the Hudsons, Scott, and Mrs. Lane, who you will take for granted while you grow up. Let them know you are grateful, today. “Thank you,” might be the hardest thing to say in life because it reveals how you were affected by someone else.  For that moment you allowed someone into your life with an open heart and you are letting them know that by saying thank you.

And finally, stay true to who you are. I know you will do this at times, you will make hard choices because deep down you listened to the quiet but strong voice. Other times you will feel lost and hurt and wonder why life is so dark. That happens when you lose your focus, when you let others decide your future. Your path will be clearer if you continue to make choices that align with who you are (and what your goals are).

You are going to make it. At the halfway mark of life you will be amazed at how far you’ve come (and that you have driven two minivans as a dad). It won’t be easy, but I hope you take my advice so that when you arrive here you would have experienced more joy than heartache. But even if you don’t take my advice, you will look ahead to the second half of your life and you will know, even though the years are speeding up, that they will be filled with love.

                                                                                             Sincerely

                                                                                              You at 45

P.S. Remember this song?

 

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Student Assignment

One of the reasons I love teaching is when a student connects the class work to their life. When an assignment becomes more than just a grade. For my English Composition course the students end the year with a research based persuasive essay. I have all kinds of assignments built around helping the students produce that final essay. One of those assignments is to write a letter to an authority connected to their topic. Throughout the last 18 years those “letters” have actually been used by students to make a difference in their schools or communities. This year one student tackled a serious issue, binge drinking.

Now, Anthony is a non-traditional student. He is a father and is working a career change. And his letter to an authority was an honest letter. After you read it, you’ll understand why I wanted to share his work.

18 November 2016 

Dear Parent,  

 This may go without saying, but I’m asking you to stay very involved in your child’s life as they go through college and into life beyond. Please make sure they are not falling prey to an issue many young people face today. There is a problem that is not only prevalent in this area, but all across the nation. This problem is binge drinking in our student body. As I write this, college students across the nation are gearing up for a fun Friday night. Going to the liquor store for the first eighteen pack of the weekend, maybe a bottle or two of fireball. There is a game tomorrow, so surely the booze will be flowing at tailgate parties. That’s tonight, tomorrow, and tomorrow night to drink as much alcohol as one can.  

Binge drinking is defined as more than five drinks in a two-hour period for men. For women, it’s more than four drinks in the same period of time. According to the C.D.C. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), almost 90% of alcohol consumed by binge drinkers in the U.S. today is by people under 21 years old. Those who admitted to binge drinking are fourteen times more likely to get behind the wheel and drive while impaired.  

As a student myself attending college I have seen this first hand. Not only in the student body but in myself. I have been in the shoes of the hung over youth. The boy who wakes up not knowing where he is or how he got there. Trying to make sense of the night or day before. Only guessing at whether I hurt anyone or just what happened. All of these situations seem to be the social norm. Usually talk during the week consists of how much was drank or just how drunk they got. Blacking out seems to be the goal. This is activity is very dangerous.  

Drinking and college go together like a hand and glove. It has been a cultural rite of passage for American youth for generations. It may be impossible to completely stop drinking for a good time or to relieve stress, but discouraging underage drinking and binge drinking could lead to better grades, increased overall health, and decreased chances of alcoholism. All while diminishing accidents or fatalities associated with alcohol.   

I’m asking you to let your children know that you care. Your influence may mean more to them than you think. Just talk to them about the dangers of overindulging. Education, love, understanding and communication are the best tools to reach them. Misery is not required for one to be happy. 

Sincerely,  

Anthony

 

Thank you, Anthony, for letting share such an honest and powerful letter.

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Happy Birthday

Courtesy of Flickr user Bitterjug

The candles were lit.  My daughter looked around at everyone standing by her.  A smile creeping on her face.

“Everyone ready?” I ask.

The kids all shake their heads yes and we all break out in song, “Happy birthday…”

And my daughter bursts out in joyful laughter.

Yesterday was my third daughter’s birthday.  She turned four.  It was a busy day for our family.  Wednesday is CCD, my wife attended a funeral during the day, my oldest son has a different schedule because of finals, and we went out to eat for my daughter’s birthday.  All day my little girl kept asking if it was, “Happy Birthday Time.”  I thought she meant if she could open presents.  She received one of her presents in the morning and opened her other present after dinner, but she kept asking about the Happy Birthday Time while the older kids were at CCD.  I told her we would have cake when the kids got back and that she had opened all her presents.  But she kept asking.  I didn’t get it until I saw her eyes explode with joy as we sang “Happy Birthday” to her.

It wasn’t the presents, or the cake; it was that moment when she was the center of our attention.  Where we expressed our love for her in a simple song.  She laughed the whole time.  She couldn’t blow out her candles because of her laughter.  This was the third moment in the last couple of weeks that has highlighted the importance of our actions (and words) in building up (or tearing down) another person.

Example number two happened last weekend as I was getting groceries.  I want to preface the example with the knowledge that as a parent I have had bad days and I hope this situation for the mother was just one of those days.

I was shopping for groceries alone as we tried to get the little ones some rest.  As I turned into an aisle I noticed a boy about nine years old sitting at one of the booths the store has for eating from the deli.  Didn’t think too much of it and continued up the aisle.

“Can I shop with you now, mom?”  I knew it was the boy.

“Does it look like I’m at the end of the store?” an annoyed and exasperated voice responded.

“Please, can I shop with you?” His voice pleaded. As a dad the part that makes me feel ashamed when I lose my temper is how much my kids still just want my love and attention.

The mom’s voice softens a little, “OK, but no more issues.”

As life has it, I crossed paths with this mother and son in every aisle for the rest of my time in the store. And yes, they even ended up behind me in the checkout aisle.

ToolsThe mother’s voice might have softened at first, but soon I heard her bark at her son… in every aisle.  The situation brought up a dark time in my life.  In junior high my mother had a live-in boyfriend that would put me down whenever he could.  But the worst was when I would have to help him with projects.  He was an outstanding handyman.  He could fix any problem in the house.  He built some incredible cabinets and other things for my mom.  Even though I was “the worst #### kid ever” I always had to help.  I could not do anything right. It was a very dark two years of my life. Even today, I have a hard time doing handyman things around the house.

Back to the store. I tried to smile and just make a positive interaction with the two.  But, it was the same situation in each aisle.  The mom’s voice covering the child in negativity.  And the boy doing everything he could to make her happy.

The third situation has challenged my own patience, as our littlest one has not gotten a consistent schedule through the night or morning.  It is not fun changing diapers at two in the morning, or knowing that the family will be running late because the little one is up earlier than normal. That means I have to feed her before I can get into my morning routine.

But, no matter the time, my little girl lights up with a smile when I place her on the changing table.  Whether it is two in the morning, or when I try to get a couple of sips of coffee before I feed her.  I have created a new habit of kissing her on the forehead whenever I pick her up in the middle of the night. It helps me remember to keep my frustration at bay.

Every child, heck, in all honesty everybody wants to know they are loved, that they are the center of your attention.  Even if it is for just one song.

I hope you have a “Happy Birthday” kind of day.

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Trust Your Foundation

My youngest daughter, in fact all my children, continue to show me life lessons.  Every morning my two youngest daughters get a breakfast bag to take with them in the car.

BreakfastAs the girls get their hair done, shoes on, they start eating their breakfast.  This morning we were rolling with our normal routine when my youngest daughter placed her bag on the edge of the side table spilling her breakfast.

I took a few seconds to collect myself so that I wouldn’t just have a knee jerk reaction. I looked at the ceiling, took a breath, and prepared to clean up the mess.  As I turned back to my daughter I was surprised to see her simply picking up her breakfast.  I bent down and helped her pick up the spilled cereal and Pop-tarts.

Honestly, I was prepared to ask her to help or even do it myself.  But there she was handling the situation.  Something we, as parents, have tried to instill in all our children.  As we cleaned up together, I thought to myself how I didn’t trust my own parenting.  I was, again, quick to think that I would have to handle the situation.  But my little girl proved me wrong.

Trust.  What a tricky concept.  Especially in this situation.  To trust myself.  To trust the foundation we have been building for our children.  My oldest son will be a seventh grader next year.  The teen years will be in full force in our home.  I know I will make mistakes.  I know my son will make mistakes.  But this morning my youngest daughter showed me that it is not just trusting others, but having the courage to trust the foundation I build.

I will be honest, that is a scary thought because as a parent we want to have a sense of control. Just like the old adage “If you want it done right, do it yourself.”  But the problem is that we can’t live another person’s life, even if it is our children’s lives (or our students).  We have to trust we have built a strong foundation and let them show we can trust them to stand on that foundation.

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