Category Archives: Dad

The Next Chapter

nextchapter

Taking my oldest son to college for the first time was harder than I thought.  My wife and I left with him Wednesday night and moved him in on Thursday.  Then, we left.

All the clichés are true; it happens more quickly than you think.  I can attest to that.  One day you’re putting him on the school bus for the first time, and then almost without blinking you’re hugging him in the dorm parking lot saying good bye.  You feel this extreme loss of his presence, knowing that it will never be the same.

But then my 88 year-old father, who did this 7 times, said it’s like he’s starting his next chapter.  For some reason that made me feel better, that somehow, for him, he’s getting to start something he’s been waiting a long time to start.  I then remember how happy I was for my next chapter after my parents dropped me off at college.  These additional perspectives helped me balance my own feelings of loss and fear I felt by dropping him off.

Maybe it should be about him, and not me?

I talk a lot about the “change cycle.”  This is a model that tells you no matter how big or small the change is that you are experiencing, science tells us that we always go through the same sequential 6 stages—Loss, Doubt, Discomfort, Discovery, Understanding, Integration.  The pace in which one goes through the cycle is dependent on several factors.  One thing I like about the model is that just knowing you go through all 6 stages—and you will eventually get to Integration—in of itself is comforting.  By using this model, I can self-identify that I am in the Loss and Doubt stages, and that is OK.

This one will take me a while.  The text messages and once a week phone calls help too.  After we got home, his younger brothers launched a multi-phased project where everyone was switching rooms.

“We keep no shrines,” my mother used to say when the exact same thing happened 45 years ago with my 6 sisters.

Peyton moved into Will’s now empty room.  Henry moved into Peyton’s room and Eddie stayed in the room he previously shared with Henry.  We moved clothes, dressers, beds–the works.  Now the remaining boys all have their own room.

Feels like they moved through the change cycle pretty quickly.  Have to love your siblings.

Advertisements

Blog: Have We Lost Our Ability to Wonder?

“Ohio,” my father said out loud in the middle of Sunday church.

Puzzled, I looked at him, and he just smiled back.  The biggest smile I’ve seen from him in a while.  I must admit, I wondered for a second if he was losing it.  I tilted my head, shrugged my shoulders, and moved on.

Later that day, he was hanging out with my family.  Someone had posed a question about what year an athlete had played on a local team.  One of my children, seemingly on auto-pilot, quickly looked up the answer on his device and blurted out the answer, like a robot reading from a script.

“Don’t kids have any sense of wonderment anymore?” my Dad asked.  “No, not really,” I responded matter-of-factly.

Dad’s right.  Whatever ability we’ve ever had to truly ponder and think about something, to rack our brains for the answer, seems gone today.  Vanished, like hand writing a letter to someone.  We’ve all been out with friends to have “that guy” in the group who is always on his phone looking up answers to questions that are posed.  Our ability to actually dialog on topics like this seems to be fading.

I suppose one could argue whether or not there are any unintended consequences for this, but I admit I worry that the value mental problem solving, and the sweat equity involved to do so, is missing from our youth today.  I remember thinking about work problems for days, only to solve them days later in a moment of silence.  I felt happiness from that, figuring out something on my own, giving it time, making by brain work for it.

Today, if kids don’t know the answer to something, they just look up the answer.  Done.  Move on to a new topic.  No debates, bets, or dialog.  Like it’s a waste of time to actually sit and think about something.

That night, I asked Dad why he said the word “Ohio” out loud during mass that morning.  He said that days before, his trivia calendar asked to name the three states that were four-letter words.  He immediately recalled Iowa and Utah, but couldn’t remember the third one.

Days later, it came to him: Ohio.  And, with it, a smile.  He had figured it out on his own, at his pace.  Thanks Dad!

A New Paradox–Work Out Loud and Be Invisible

Jim Collins made the concept of Level 5 Leadership famous. In a nutshell, Collins studied great companies and what was common across all was a leader who had both unbelievable humility coupled with fierce resolve.

You can’t just turn into a Level 5 leader overnight. I’ve never had a problem with having fierce resolve, or what my friends tease me about, having what is called an “unwavering commitment” in everything I do. But I wish I had more of my father’s humility. I admire my father for this, as evidenced in this quotation from him at the age of 86: “Still, I am learning”. That’s powerful. Most of us think we already have it all figured out, when in actuality we’re kidding ourselves.

At the time of the Collins writing, these two leadership attributes were an amazing paradox, one that I personally still have not figured out, but a recent David Zweig book called “Invisibles–The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion” has introduced a newer, and equally difficult paradox for me:

Work out Loud, but be invisible. That one, I admit, I don’t have figured out.

Loose Change Lessons

In 1986 I lived in Glasgow, Scotland with my parents and sister Susan while Dad was a visiting professor at the University of Glasgow for a semester. We lived in a flat and had no car. We walked or took public transportation everywhere. On the way to school there was an ice cream store. I don’t remember the name of it but one of the treats they had was an ice cream sandwich of sorts called a “Wafer”. Essentially home-made ice cream packed between 2 wafer cookies of sorts. It was delicious.

Kids like ice cream. I was a kid. But I don’t remember getting an ice cream every time I walked by. What I do remember is that Dad has always been proficient at finding loose change on the ground. Eyes peeled to the ground, he could find a coin in the smallest of spaces. Most days, he would come home and deposit that day’s change in a jar. When the grand total in the jar equaled enough to buy 4 wafers, off we went to the ice cream store. Then, the process would begin again.

Hundreds of times walking by=no ice cream

A couple times with a jar of change=appreciated ice cream

I was reminded of this story when in Chicago with my kids on a trip. We had eaten breakfast in the hotel room and my kids had been given a glass of Archer farms apple juice which we had brought from home. I noticed as we left the room that some of the juice had gone unfinished, which is fairly normal. But at least we had attempted to meet their basic needs. Within the hour, we were waiting to get the pass we had purchased for touring the sights and I decided to buy my wife and I a cup of coffee. All four kids in tow, we waited in line and I ordered the coffees.

Suddenly, the kids just expected to also get—of all things—a juice box of apple juice. Not the cheap variety mind you, but $2 a pop. That’s 2 bucks times 4 kids. My initial reaction was “no”. “No” is a complete sentence. Unpopular decision. We parents are faced with these decisions all the time. “Oh come on, we’re on a vacation.” or “pick your battles.”

I talked to my kids about this blog/story and for me it comes down to appreciation. If you are privileged in life, then showing appreciation can neutralize your behaviors of entitlement. My Dad’s lesson in loose change was an intentional teaching point. I’m sure had I asked for some impromptu ice cream he would have bought it for me, but I never expected it. Whether it is ice cream or apple juice, sometimes waiting for enough loose change might just teach you a valuable lesson in appreciation.