Resistance isn’t always Futile!

If you are like me, the notion of even having kids, made you want to be a better person. Maybe you changed your diet, started working out, became more learned – all in an effort to be the best you could possibly be for your child. As life goes on, perhaps some of those improvements fade away but for most of us, we never lose sight of the fact that we want the best for our children and we want to be able to do whatever is in our means to make that happen. I am no exception – I want to ensure that my daughter is afforded all the advantages in life – especially the ones I never had. This is not to say that I want everything handed to her. Ok, who am I kidding, I do want everything handed to her – specifically on a silver platter, but I know that wouldn’t do her and society any good. I want her to earn her keep so to speak, but I want to ensure that opportunities are accessible enough for her to make those leaps and bounds in achievement – but that’s easier said than done and way more expensive.

As it turns out, there are those times when we have to resist this innate desire to always jump in and “rescue” whatever situation our children encounter. Instead, you have to sit back and witness the fruits of your labor and watch your children’s flight or fight responses take over and just hope for the best. No, I am not talking about when you child starts their career, or even starting college – I am talking about something much more dramatic and life altering – preparing for kindergarten! Recently, my daughter had to undergo “assessments” where school administrators assessed her readiness for the rigors of Kindergarten. If you have ever watched the NBA or NFL draft, I have always paid attention to the family members that are usually huddled around the phone. You see their quiet anticipation, prayer, nervous pacing – that’s me in a nutshell.  This is where all our ABCs and 123s are put to the test and you hope and pray that she leaves it “all on the dance floor” and impresses the heck out of the administrators. But, there is a certain point where you think to yourself, “maybe hoping and praying just isn’t enough”. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully confident in her mastery of the complex skills needed for kindergarten but I mean, how much can an assessment really tell you? Will it expose how awesome my daughter is and what a significant contribution she would make to her class and the school – not to mention humanity? One of my favorite television shows, Portlandia, dealt with such an issue and believe me, if I had access to a professional camera crew, I too would be making a promotional DVD highlighting my daughter’s accomplishments! Obviously the reality of it is, there isn’t much else I can do that’s either legal or in good taste, to effect the outcome – it’s all up to her.

So there in lies the conundrum I am faced with – wanting my daughter to succeed in everything she does, while resisting the overwhelming temptation to make success happen for her. Years ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to sit on the board of our Alumni Scholarship Program Committee. We were charge with the responsibility of reading and scoring numerous applications from prospective freshman, seeking to obtain the scholarship from our organization. As part of the application process, a series of essays were required which asked the applicants to describe their accomplishments while in high school and how their degree and life’s experiences would contribute to the University. If I am lying, let this post burst into flames – half of the applications read like the Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Kennedy Center Honors, while the other half read like they came straight out of a movie script. I remember one applicant explained that his desire to be an engineer, was based on the non-profit organization he founded in Kenya, while on vacation with his family, that was designed to make potable water, drinkable. Yet another applicant explained how her desire to be Pre-med was realized while memorizing books on anatomy and simulating surgical procedures?!? Are these kids for real? I remember thinking to myself and later discussing with the rest of the board members, that these applications were not genuine enough because they were all clearly “enhanced” in one way or another. We decided from that point forward to look for those diamonds in the rough, those applicants who haven’t already cured cancer, but have the potential to do so – which we eventually found.

My point is, we parents want so desperately for our children to succeed that it is quite simple to rationalize certain behavior.  We have to really resist this inclination and refocus on wanting our children to be that proverbial “diamond in the rough”  where we as parents afford them all the skills and opportunities necessary for success. And then, combined with their own self-drive and capabilities, they can accomplish anything they put their minds to. As tough as it is to sit back and let my daughter run with it, I have to be confident in all that we have done to prepare her thus far and rest on knowing that she is capable of tremendous things!

And so, as I am writing this post, the Principal has just called to inform us of the results of my daughter’s assessment – she did extremely well and has been accepted in to Kindergarten (provided our check clears – just kidding)!!!! If you have ever watched the professional sports drafts that I mentioned previously, I am reacting like those family members when they find out their child is the #1 overall draft pick! If you don’t know the frame of reference or have no idea what I am talking about, suffice it to say, it’s a grossly over exaggerated reaction – but I don’t care because my baby is going to kindergarten!!!!

Now that I have calmed down and composed myself, I realize that there will be plenty of other opportunities for me to cross the line, in pursuit of success for my daughter but, as long as I keep myself in check and remember that HER success will have to be earned by HER, I am hoping that’s enough to get my by.

Me: I am so excited you are going to Kindergarten! Aren’t you excited?

My Daughter: No

Me: Why?

My Daughter: Because it’s going to be easy!

…I guess she’s got this. Until next time!

Even Superman gets a day off…right?

As young children, our Fathers (or male figures in our lives) served as our template of virility. They were the strongest, smartest, funniest, most athletic and most handsome men we ever knew. Then, somewhere along in our childhood timeline, some of us come to realize that those traits we so admired when we were children, have either changed or were seen through an innocent and naive lens and were never really there at all. But some of us still see these men in the same light (if not more so) as we did when we were children.

I have often wondered about those of us who fall in the latter of these two groups. You’ve heard people like this typically say (usually with some bravado in their tone), “My dad is the (fill in the blank) person I have ever known!” Really?!? It’s a wonderful sentiment – and it seems like something any good son or daughter would say – but let’s be real, a vast majority of Dads aren’t competing in any Mr. Olympian competitions, or debating Steven Hawking, or in the NBA Playoffs, or hosting open mike night at The Laugh Factory. Be that as it may, you still hear people practically canonizing the men in their lives – I even do the same thing when talking about my Dad!

The source of my wonder comes from trying to understand what makes us say these things in the first place. I mean, any objective on-looker might have a completely different opinion about “our” men – but we’ll stick to our guns, “don’t you say anything bad about my daddy!” We aren’t born this way but we do develop these feelings early on in life. Who knows how early these sentiments form but maybe it develops the first time we playfully throw our children up and catch them or, they see us doing something rather benign and they laugh like it’s the funniest thing they have seen in their lives, or better yet, our children ask us why something works the way it does and we are able to explain it with ease – maybe all of this contributes to the “legend”. For some dads it might be completely legit – they might have high IQ’s  can dunk a basketball without jumping and are comedic geniuses – but for the rest of us, we do the best with what we have and hope that we can keep our facade up long enough so that our children will keep us on that pedestal!

While I continue to contemplate the origin and reasons behind all of this, I obsess over the hope and dream that when my children are older, they will talk about me with such reverence and admiration – which is partly why our recent experience with moving to a new home had me incredibly anxious. Several years ago, my family moved to a new yet familiar town, to be closer to the Grandparents. It was a calculated decisions with enormous payoffs for my daughter – it was a welcomed move. The actual physical moving of our household items, although laborious, was pretty standard. My 70 year old Father-in-law led a motley crew of family volunteer movers including myself, some uncles and some cousins. We rented a truck, my Father in law expertly loaded it and at the end of the weekend, our powerhouse team of rugged, athletic and dangerously handsome men, completed the job!

Flash-forward to a couple of weeks ago while planning our most recent move – my how things have changed. Most significantly is the loss of my Father-in-law (aka Master Mover Expert Level) – his guidance and leadership was sorely missed. And that crew of young and debonair movers? Knee surgeries, degenerative discs, arthritis, fatigue and lets be honest, a few dozen pounds – the Dream Team was more like the Convalescent Team – in only a couple of years, we completely fell apart! So I decided to do something, that on the surface made complete and logical sense to me, but on the inside I struggled with immensely – I HIRED MOVERS! *GASP* Now before you begin laughing at the thought of me having such trepidation over hiring movers, let me try to explain.

On the one hand, the ability to physically muster a household move is degraded, so help had to come from somewhere – why not hire “professionals” (I use that term loosely)? But on the other hand, deciding to hire movers felt like I was conceding a certain part of my man essence (hmm, that sounds weird) – and yes, I did have a brief moment where I thought to myself, “Will my daughter look back at this moment in Dad history and knock me down a peg or two?” At one point I posted on Facebook about how lame I felt sitting back and watching the move take place. It wasn’t the best of feelings for sure and I just couldn’t resist loading whatever boxes I could and that my back would allow.

It wasn’t until I reflected on the overwhelming support I received for hiring movers and the sheer disdain for moving that we all share, that I realized that there was nothing wrong with hiring movers. My Dad rep did not take a bruising, the movers actually provided me with the opportunity to tend to more pressing matters, and my family was spared from unnecessary amounts of inconvenience – and that’s what mattered most to me. You see, I think some Dads put the weight of the world on their shoulders because we feel we need too – we aren’t dads or men, if we don’t. But the real key is knowing when that pressure is appropriate and when it is not. So maybe that’s the key to Dad “longevity” – not how strong, smart, funny, and athletic you are but more about how you use what you’ve got and do whats best for your family.

 

The World We Live In…

The following is a post I published shortly after the Newtown Tragedy and it is with quiet trepidation that this post be apropos to the terrorist bombing in Boston by simply adding April 15, 2013 to the list of events below – but the sentiment is still valid and thus the need for a re-posting.

I remember, quite vividly (which as you may know by now, is a feat all in of itself for me) watching live television on January 28, 1986. I remember helping my dad suit up in tactical gear in April 1992 as he headed out to catch a ride on the humvee that was waiting to take him to South Central Los Angeles. I also remember waking up and making my way out of our house on January 17, 1994. I remember sitting in my office on September 11, 2001, after working the overnight shift, and watching The Today Show while noticing my e-mail inbox filling up with e-mails coming in seemingly every second. I remember having dinner at my in-laws house on May 2, 2011 and watching social media just explode.  And now, I will remember watching the morning news on December 14, 2012.

Each of these events has left an ineffaceable imprint on our society, our laws (soon), our conscious and our soul – and I wrestle – as I am sure we all do – with what to do now.

The pain, anguish, hurt and confusion, is still too raw – but we all know that our lives must go on. Due to this tragedy and the overwhelming need to be with family during the holiday season, I have decided to suspend my regular posting until January 2013.

In the meanwhile, we parents have the task of making sense out of this senseless act. We have turned off the television for our little one, when it comes to this topic – opting instead to talk about this in terms of prayer. The coming days, weeks and months are going to be transformational. My mother – 20+ year school teacher is seeing an increase in security unlike anything she has ever seen before. My daughter’s preschool has doubled their security presence. The world is changing – we parents need to be there and help define it for our children.

However you choose to reconcile this horrific event, and the ones that will undoubtedly come, let us be mindful of the messages WE are giving our children. Not passing judgement on anyone but we have to understand the effect our behavior and actions have on our children – going out and buying guns or keeping your children from school may not be the right answer. Likewise, acting as if nothing happened is not healthy either. If you struggle, seek help – If you have something you would like to share, please do. Let us be a community on this – for the sake of our precious children.

Failing makes you a great Parent!

Did you grow up thinking Mom and Dad were Superwoman and Superman, incarnate? Whether it was their educational achievements, business success, work ethic or general know-how – they were the epitome, the “gold standard”, if you will, of what it meant to be (fill in the blank). Maybe you still feel that way about them or maybe you don’t but, if you are anything like me, this grandiose image that they constructed – backfired. This is not to say that I do not think the world of my parents nor is it to say that I don’t appreciate, that through insurmountable odds, they were able to succeed and thrive – its just that growing up the way I did was a little overwhelming…I’ll explain.

I am all sure we had the lecture, “When I was your age, I had to walk 10 miles in the snow and sleet to do (insert standard 1960’s  hardship)!” How is this truly relatable to a Southern California kid? There will never be snow and why would I have any reason to walk 10 miles – anywhere? But I think what was truly difficult for me was seeing my parents as infallible beings and knowing that I could never amount to their level of piety. My Parents never made a mistake, that I know of, and they always succeeded at everything they did, as far as I was concerned. Even when times were tough and not ideal, their perseverance was a thing of beauty. So what’s a kid to do? I suppose some of you probably took these experiences and used them as inspiration or even yet, as challenges to rise to the level of the examples set before you. But, if you are like me, you quickly realized that achieving this standard was next to impossible and left you probably thinking, “what’s wrong with me?” (insert sad face here)

What I now know to be true, is that to a certain extent, it was all a façade. My Parents were not perfect – far from it. Their triumph over adversity was a result of trial and error, sprinkled with a little bit of luck and a boat load of divine intervention. Their successes in education and in life were the result of relentless hard work and hard knocks – in other words, they are humans. But as a kid, they hid this from me – not intentionally. I truly believe they thought they were being examples of what success looked like but the consequences of their actions left me feeling like the kind of life they led was unattainable. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were very supportive and encouraged me to live to my fullest potential, but when the bar is set so high it has to be seen by a telescope – well, there could be problems.

Flashforward to present day – I totally get it. If you have read any of my other posts you are well aware of my thoughts and opinions about being that “gold standard” for your children. We want our children to look at us and see us as role models and we want them to  emulate us – not in any narcissistic way  mind you (or at least it shouldn’t be) but we want our children to be the beneficiaries of the lives we have led, the struggles we have overcome and the success we have achieved. But, I am also mindful of the “humanity” within our behavior. Our children need to also understand that we as Parents can falter, we can and do make mistakes, we are not perfect, WE FAIL – sometimes. But perhaps, even more important than all of that, is teaching our children how to overcome the challenging times that they will inevitably face, by witnessing how we as Parents deal with them.

I recently had the opportunity to attend an intense immersion and exam preparation course that was preparing me to take an internationally recognized Professional certification exam. For the purpose of this course, I had to spend about a week away from home, which undoubtedly took a toll on the whole family. During this intense course, my communication with my family was limited and at its conclusion, I was just exhausted. But, it was important for me to explain, in the best way that I could to a 4 year old, that Papi was working really hard and had to sacrifice some quality time in order to prepare for a test. So when test time came along and it was time to use all that hard work and sacrifice – and leave it all on the dance floor – I came up short and did not pass the test! I was personally devastated. I felt like it was all for not. But wouldn’t you know it, when I got home from the testing location, I too fell in to the same pattern of “masking” my failure and behaving like nothing was different – which is probably the same thing my Parents did. Although I have a plan to do more studying and retake the exam, I completely ignored the part about being her example of how to address the eventual and inevitable shortcomings in life. Although she might be too young to understand, its never too late to make this correlation between success and failure and what should be done in both scenarios.

Turning the tables a little bit on you, especially those of you with older children. How have you dealt with your shortcomings as a Parent and how do you explain it to your children when you fail?

My not so secret wish for my children

As a child  I was fascinated with Science, History and Geography (who am I kidding, I still am). I loved learning the hows and whys things worked and behaved in the manner that they did. I started off by wanting to be a doctor, so my parents bought me working models of human organs – cool, right? Watching the “Electric Company” and “Where in the world is Carmen San Diego” (shoot, I just dated myself again) was how I spent most of my after school time. When I wasn’t watching those shows, you could easily find me in the library, looking for my next “choose your own adventure” book or borrowing as many copies of “Popular Mechanics” magazines as I can fit in my Library Book tote (yes, I had one of those…jealous?). But as a consequence of such behavior, I developed an apparent speech problem that continues to plague me today. I found it hard to communicate with some of my peers  because I could never distinguish between the proper uses of “shoulda, coulda and woulda” or the proper conjugation of “what is up” to “wassup”. It wasn’t until Junior High School that I first learned of my misguided behavior and how it might affect my all too important social standing. As it was explained to me, there were assumptions being made about me based on the way I talked and how I chose to spend my after school time. And, if I didn’t change my impolitical ways, I risked being labeled a NERD!

I was perplexed as to why I was at such risk but more importantly, I was confused as to why was I being warned? Now do not get me wrong, I wasn’t spared from being called “Steve Urkel” (although I considered myself more of a Stefan Urquelle) and let’s face it, I did have a library book tote – but this question of labeling my behavior still concerned me. I also asked myself the question, “Is it really all that bad to be labeled a nerd?” Well, according to the 14 year old learned scholars of all that was nerd-like at my school, a nerd was considered an intellectual, with maybe some obsessive compulsive tendencies but more importantly, socially awkward – which equated to being bad thing. Also a nerd did not dress in the latest fashion or they weren’t particularly adept at sports and were certainly not up to date on the latest campus gossip. So if this was the accepted definition by the sacred counsel of immature teenagers, then why wasn’t I considered a “nerd”?

Well, as it turns out, I hadn’t completely submerged myself in the calming waters of nerdom but, I was certainly dipping my toes in it. In other words, my “friends” considered me to be some sort of a hybrid between being cool and being a nerd – a coerd if you will. I was on the track and field team, allowed to walk to and from school (which was considered cool), had a recognizable sense of humor – well versed on the latest Saturday Night Live comedy sketches, and most of the teachers knew of me – but in a good way. You see, I might not have known who was featured in Wrestlemania or what team just won the championship but, I was good at the sports I did play and I did not appear to be socially awkward (even though I thought I was) and therefore I was accepted. Had I not gone to such an artsy-fartsy school and all other things being equal, I would have certainly been considered a “nerd”. Without debating the etymology and societal implications of associating intellect with negative personal attributes, now that I am a Dad, I have recently come to the conclusion that my not so secret wish for my children is, THAT THEY WILL BE NERDS LIKE ME!

This realization revealed itself not too long before my Father-in-law passed away.  My Father-in-law (affectionately known as “Tata”), who was a retired mechanical engineer, spent a lot of quality  time with my daughter. One day my daughter wanted to show me something that Tata had taught her. My Father-in-law had managed to break down the concept of flight, in easily digestible pieces, for a 4-year old to understand – and let me tell you, few things are cuter than having a 4 year old explain aerodynamics to you. But what struck me immediately was how intrigued and quite literally “thirsty” she was to understand and learn more. I swelled with pride and thought “the force is strong with this one” – this was the beginning of her becoming a nerd! Please don’t get me wrong, I am not wishing that my children experience any of the cruelty and name-calling that I experienced whilst growing up. Nor do I want them to struggle with any potential identity issues that might present itself when they find out my not so secret wish. I want them to unabashedly embrace their intellect and not feel the necessity to fill a certain mold created by some tween but rather, I want them to follow me as an example.

But I struggled with what that meant exactly, until I came upon an article by Dr. Dan Reimold. In his article, “Redefining the nerd stereotype”, he interviews a young lady who considers herself a nerd. And there it was in 9-point Arial font, she considers herself “a functioning nerd”. She explains,

“A functioning nerd is somebody who doesn’t fit the stereotype of a typical nerd. They could look like a cheerleader or have tons of friends. It’s somebody who has their passions, but it doesn’t affect their social life.”

So there you have it! I am a [highly] functioning nerd and that is what I want for my children – to be highly functioning nerds too! I want my children to be well versed in every Star Wars movie (except for Episode 1 due to Jar Jar Binks and yes, to include whatever Disney plans on doing to the franchise). I want them to know the differences between NCC 1701 A-D, but I will also foster a love of the arts, competition (science included) and friendship. I want them to be passionate and engaged in whatever their heart’s desire but I also want them to balance their passions with social interactions and any other activities that will make them a well-rounded individual.

There you have it, I plan on raising Functional nerds – and I suspect I am not the only one out there – who’s with me?

The Value of Communication…Communication of Value The

As a teenager and into my early college years, I was worked as a summer day camp counselor for kids of various ages. For the older kids, (pre-teen and teenagers) most of my day consisted of keeping the disaffected youth engaged by convincing them that their parents did not send them to day camp because they “wanted some alone time” AND keeping the raging storm of hormones at bay by dispelling rumors of who liked who or who broke up with who – needlesstosay, every day was a challenge but also rewarding.

To keep these sonic youths from zoning out for too long, I would organize games that were not only entertaining but also challenged them to think and instilled some sort of “life lesson” as well. One of my favorites was a game commonly referred to as, “Telephone”. For those who are unfamiliar, the object of this game was for the a single phrase, which originates from one of the players, to be passed to each player in the form of a whisper. The phrase would finally be whispered back to the originator in order to conclude the game. Players can either be in a line or any other pattern they choose to ensure that everyone participating had whispered and had been whispered to. What is realized by the end of the game, at least in my experience, was that the ending phrase is nowhere close to original one! We had some pretty interesting examples – the originating phrase might start off as a nursery rhyme but almost always end up consisting of either some boy or girl that was admired in the group…anyway. The game is supposed to illustrate how communication even in its simplest form – repetition – can be distorted or misunderstood. Once this kids got over the shock of just how far off they were from the original phrase, I would use that time to discuss how communication between their parents and friends can be made better by learning how to listen and communicate.

Flash-forward to adulthood and we realize that a lot of us should have gone to summer day camp because we apparently are still lacking in our ability to communicate with one another. Whether it’s men are from Mars and women are from Venus, or a situation at work where you clearly communicated and your boss didn’t but you still “have to work on your communication skills”, or any other miscommunication-type scenarios, knowing how to communicate with one another is essential for everyday life. As adults, most of us understand and recognize the value of effective communication. We may also understand the need for continuous improvement- so much so that the art of communication has become a billion dollar industry in this country. But, just as values and beliefs are instilled at an early age, so should certain life skills – and knowing how to communicate has to be one of them.

How to communicate effectively with others, in my humble opinion, should certainly be on the list of life skills to impart to our children. Men should be particularly apt for this challenge. It’s not that Women cannot communicate or do not communicate effectively, but the reality is, our children spend a majority of their formative years communicating predominantly with women. Whether it’s at birth where a preponderance of the infants time is spent with their mothers, or daycare/preschool/grammar school where their caretakers and teachers are more likely to be women, all the way to summer day camp where I was one of only three male counselors out of a staff of about 20. As they grow older however, they will encounter a country that is decidedly more “male dominated” in the way they communicate. Although I hope things change for the better by the time our children reach adulthood, men, specifically dads, should lay that foundation of communication for our children by which women, specifically moms, can build upon and refine.

Now, I did say Dads should be equipped to handle this challenge. I fully recognize that we men don’t have the best reputation in the communication department. We are either accused of aggressively communicating or not communicating at all. But all that being said, I would submit to you that it isn’t as if we cannot communicate, it’s just a matter of how we communicate – and a lot of that has to do with the foundation, or the lack thereof, that was established for us as we were younger. But I digress, for us to rise to the challenge of solidifying the foundation of communication for our children, I want to call out three segments of the foundation that I feel are essential and need to be instilled.

First, we need to remember that our children have a voice. Children have opinions, inquiries and points of view that are all uniquely their own, albeit immature or unformulated. Their ability to express themselves, even in its most basic forms, is a form of communication nonetheless and should be encouraged. Do not get me wrong, like all things, moderation is the name of the game. I do not want to see you in Target with your kid screaming their heads off and you look at me and say, “What, they are just expressing themselves.” What I am talking about is more of a frame of mind that we must be in when we think about communication and our children.

Second, we have all heard that idiom “Communication is a two way street”. Most people interpret this to mean that effective communication occurs when both people are communicating. My interpretation is slightly different. Although I believe communication does occupy one side of the proverbial street, I believe the other side should be consumed with listening. The way I see it, being able to truly listen (none of this Active listening nonsense) is a vital part of communication and is certainly a worthy skill for our children to master, albeit a difficult one. I am keenly aware that when it comes to listening, there is very little difference between how a toddler listens and how a teenager listens. But, this is about laying a foundation and the best way I feel this can be achieved is by setting the example of what it means to be a good listener. Guys, this does mean listening to how the day went or what someone was wearing or any of the other stereotypical conversations men tend to avoid. And, this also means listening to your child tell the same story over and over again or, how Louis C.K. put it, “Yes honey(talking to his daughter), some dogs are brown, that is very interesting.”

Lastly, for any of this to have any effect, there has be a certain level of respect between those who are communicating. This does not mean we have to accept or even like what is being said but, respect for one’s opinions and how they choose to express them must be shown. And we have to also accept that the respect may not be mutual. Similar to listening, it’s up to us to create the foundation by setting the example of what it means to be respectful. Admittedly, respect can be shown in many different ways – whether its maintaining eye contact, using the person’s name or title or simply uttering the words, “I respect what you are saying” – no matter how respect is shown, your children will follow the example you have prepared for them.

Although these three are a small microcosm of a much more exhaustive list, I feel these are a good starting point in raising effective communicators. What would you add to this list?

Patience IS a virtue

If you grew up like I did, you were constantly bombarded with old idioms or sayings that were seemingly handed down through the generations as if they were family heirlooms. “The early bird catches the worm”, “Waste not, want not”, “A bird in the hand is worth two in a bush”. In those days, it seemed like few people knew what was trying to be conveyed and as children, we had no clue either so, we often had to use context to discern their meanings. One of my favorites used by my mom, like it was going out of style, was “A blessing in disguise”. I recall as a child wondering why blessing are always disguising themselves – why don’t they want to be recognized?

Flash forward to today, I find myself using the same ones from my youth, except that now I have the benefit of the internet. So, when my naturally inquisitive daughter looks at me puzzled after I use one of these time honored idioms, I have the ability to actually sound like I know what I am talking about when attempting to explain their meanings. On a separate note, have you ever used one of these “sayings” only to realize you were using it wrongly? For me it was “a method to my madness” which at the time, I incorrectly thought it had something to do with actually being mad and the way one goes about being mad. But I digress. As adults and more specifically parents, we tend to rattle these off to our children as valuable life lessons in neatly wrapped expressions but, there are times, when we have to be reminded of the essence of these very sayings and put ourselves in check. Such was the case for me this past weekend at the hands of my daughter.

It’s in these moments that I remember that children serve as such unapologetic sources of keeping us parents “grounded”. Just when you think you know it all, have it all sorted out and can anticipate every move, children come along to remind you that YOU DON’T KNOW, WHAT YOU THINK YOU KNOW. My daughter seems to have perfected the ability to skin me down raw to my essential elements exposing the vast amount work that I still have to do on my road to becoming a better Dad and a better man. And she can do all of this with the grace and poise that only a toddler can possess (insert sarcasm)!

We decided to celebrate President’s Day at the happiest place on earth – Disneyland! As is customary in our family, we had a very loose itinerary filled with the rides and attractions we planned to visit. And, like most parents who frequent amusement parks, we were also keenly aware of where the nearest restrooms were at all times. (now for you parents of toddlers, don’t get ahead of me on this because there are other readers out there who may not know where we are going) I am convinced that toddlers are obsessed with going to the restroom, especially in a place like Disneyland and especially on a crowded day like a National holiday! Perhaps it’s their tiny bladders combined with the sheer excitement of being at Disneyland that results in the frequent visits, to the point where it feels like you have waited in line for a restroom stall longer than you have waited to actually get on some of the rides! Whatever the case may be, the law of averages and Murphy would suggest that no matter how expertly you prepare and plan for restroom breaks (hey, I even have an app that locates the nearest restroom!) at some point you will inevitably fail miserably when your daughter has to go to the restroom while you are in the middle of a line. Add to that the fact that the lines at Disneyland are not conducive to such a situation…hmm, I might have a new invention on my hands come to think of it…add to that the fact that she used the restroom only 15 minutes prior to that, add to that the fact that we are now climbing over railings and ducking under ropes because “it can’t wait!!!” – equals one stressed out and slightly annoyed Dad!

As I traversed the gauntlet of the Disneyland ride line and anxiously made my way to the restrooms daring not to test the validity of the “it can’t wait” line uttered by my daughter, she began to whimper. Probably sensing my anxiousness from the unapologetic looks from the other men waiting in line for the stalls, my daughter begins to cry. As we entered the stall I remember thinking to myself, “Why is she crying, I should be the one crying”, but then it dawned on me that she was feeling bad about the circumstances surrounding her need to use the restroom and the visible (and most likely audible) frustration it was causing me – she put the weight of all of this on her shoulders! Feeling like a lowly piece of scum, like the kind you find in one of those bathrooms, she looked at me with those beautiful brown teary eyes and said, “Papi, please be patient with me”. Just…about…lost…it, right there in the Disneyland bathroom!

Instantly, I was reminded of a phrase I heard so frequently as a child and that I have used a time or two before, “Patience is a virtue”. In that moment, my daughter reminded me of the virtuosity of being patient, not only with her, but in general. I neglected to recognize that in my role as Dad, I not only have the obligation to teach my daughter virtues and valuable life lessons through the use of sayings but, that I also have an obligation to LIVE virtuously and be an example of those life lessons. All too often we parents fall in to the “do as I say” trap. It is not always as blatant as telling your kid not to smoke while lighting up a cigarette – but sometimes it appears more subtly in the form of these idioms or sayings that we tell to our children, but we fail to live by. We need to be mindful that our children are more likely to emulate our behavior than the words we choose to describe that behavior. This experience has certainly showed me that I need to step my game up!

I want to hear from you, what experiences have you had when you recognized that the very behavior you required from your children is the very behavior you were not portraying.