Category Archives: parenting

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.

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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!

No. (is a complete sentence)

How good are you at saying “no”?

At some point in my career journey, I became programmed to say yes as a default. I remember getting training to avoid words like “no” and “but”; rather, we were coached to say more positive words like “yes” and “and”.

Who would ever want to be referred to as a “no man” instead of a “yes man”?

My mother had seven children, and she would often say to us matter-of-factly, “No is a complete sentence!”

Mom, an incredible woman, wasn’t a “yes man.” (or yes woman, if that term even exists)

Truth is, Mom couldn’t say yes to everything, even if she had wanted to. With seven children, she knew that was a recipe for disaster. She needed to keep the lights on, handle our basic needs, and ensure we were all setup to be successful and contributing members of society. Simply put, she focused on her primary mission and purpose, and in order to do that she just had to say “no” to other things that would be in direct conflict of that. If Mom spoke corporate-speak, she would have said she was good at “controlling scope”.

Here’s the wake up call: Failure to say “no” may lead to your failure.

While you may be popular initially, a one-outcome decision tree (yes, yes, yes…) just doesn’t scale. There are always tradeoffs to consider.

If you want to start to improve on your “no” game, then consider helping your stakeholders understand why you are saying no. Saying “no” with full wisdom of the issue at hand can be a credible answer too. If you can get them past any emotional issues your answer is causing, they may be open to hearing why. No one wants to say “no” to be a mean person; usually, you have good sound logic for saying “no.” Explain yourself, talk about the tradeoffs and the considerations, take accountability for your answer, and soon you may find that your stakeholders will accept, and appreciate, your critical thinking.

Playing Time

In youth sports, everyone fixates on playing time. Hear any parent, on any field, in any season, and likely the conversation surrounds playing time.

I’ve been there. Usually the scenario is where you and your child believe he/she should be getting more playing time. More is better, right? I’ve found myself propagating these emotions.

Sometimes it even gets to the point where your child asks you tough questions like:

Why don’t I ever get into the games?
Why don’t I get a chance?
Why don’t the coaches like me?

Tough questions for a parent who loves his child.

Our typical reaction is one of defense, to assume an injustice is happening and to be angry. But we focus so much on the reward (playing time) that we forget about focusing our energy on what we can control (e.g., practice attitude, hustle, improving our game, and just being ourselves.)

If in our minds we can change the reward paradigm and focus it more internally, and live more in the moment, I think we’d be surprised that the rewards are right in front of us, and our energies are much better spent thinking about that.

And we all know this is not just about youth sports. Our lives, at work, are full of similar feelings and emotions. It might not be called playing time, but it’s definitely called promotion or opportunity. What we dwell on–or not–is our choice. Dwelling on what someone else got, that you didn’t, is the same mistake we make when we focus on playing time in youth sports.

There are rewards right in front of us, we just can’t always see them.

I tell my sons all the time that you should judge the season at the end of the season. Life is full of trials, and what you make of it defines your character.